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FRIEZ COLUMN: Mother Nature remains the toughest opponent for spring sports

The latest aerial attack of frozen precipitation has caused a blizzard of postponements in the area. While it’s not uncommon to shake up the early-April schedule, this year feels particularly cold. It’s left us longing for warmer days and greener pastures.

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Snow spills over into the first-base dugout at the BSU baseball field on Thursday, April 7, 2022.
Micah Friez / Bemidji Pioneer

In December, we describe a fresh layer of snow as a winter wonderland. In April, we call it the spring sports season.

The latest aerial attack of frozen precipitation has caused a blizzard of postponements in the area. While it’s not uncommon to shake up the early-April schedule, this year feels particularly cold. It’s left us longing for warmer days and greener pastures.

Make no mistake, the afternoons of sunshine and sunflower seeds at the ballpark are coming. But just how long we must endure the dreaded white stuff remains to be seen.

The wait is worse for the athletes themselves. Already this spring, the Lumberjacks have faced postponements in boys tennis, track and field, baseball, softball and boys golf. Heck, as I write this, I was supposed to be covering a tennis match that’s been called off.

At the college level, the Beavers have already lost a number of home games in baseball and softball. (The golf teams must be the smartest, because the men are competing almost exclusively in Missouri this spring, while the women are down south in Missouri, Arizona, Iowa and Nebraska.)

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The waiting game is a headache for schedulers and a heartache for those who just want to play a sport they love.

Such a spring is a way of life in northern Minnesota, for better or worse. We adapt the best we can, such as track meets and tennis matches inside the Gillett Wellness Center, or the annual softball games on the football turf at Chet Anderson Stadium while the teams wait for the snow to melt off their fields.

Yet solutions like that don’t work for sports like baseball or golf, where the field of play can’t be squeezed inside a building. Simply put, they’re at the mercy of Mother Nature.

Even so, I’ll take a week or two of a snow-slowed schedule eons before another spring like 2020, when the pandemic did more damage than any blizzard ever could. The college seasons -- many of which were off and running in the warmer, southern states -- were canceled before the Beavers even returned home. The high school seasons never began.

The influence of COVID-19 trickled into the 2020-21 school year, as well, but normalcy more or less returned with 2021 spring sports. Maybe everything except the weather.

Last spring, the BSU baseball team hosted a doubleheader as early as March 20. It was 60 degrees and sunny. Bemidji State softball also played on the BSU softball field in March, and Bemidji Town and Country Club opened for the season on April 2.

The high school sports season didn’t begin until a few weeks later, but the Lumberjacks were off and rolling without disruption by mid-April.

Before our latest wave of snow hit hard this week, BHS has had a pair of track meets while BSU softball played twice at the Chet. Now it’s just a matter of getting them back in action alongside their colleagues in other spring sports.

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Take heart: More games are on the horizon, and the First City on the Mississippi will soon be a hub of activity on the fields, courts and links. Until then, bundle up and hunker down for a little while longer, sports fans.

At least the summers here are really nice.

Micah Friez is the former sports editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of East Grand Forks, Minn., he worked at the Pioneer from 2015-23 and is a 2018 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Creative and Professional Writing.
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