MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Sports

April 17, 2014

Much too often, spring sports seems unlike its cousins

Sitting atop Chicken Wing Hill on Saturday, watching it challenge the hearts of competitors in Muskogee Run 15K, made me think of how far that scene was from high school spring sports.

At least that part of the race, that is.

The sprint to the finish — now there’s a comparison.

Just get me to the tape.

It’s like the “relax mode” of teachers and students after standardized tests are over. The end is in sight. Cruise control is OK.

Muskogee played in a tournament split between Enid and Stillwater last weekend, a tournament that really wasn’t a tournament but a festival. But it had to be called a tournament in order to not count against the 22-game limit allowed by the OSSAA, which will let you play three tournaments beyond that.

Spring scheduling is a nightmare and it makes it great fun to attempt to keep up with ever-changing schedules in not only baseball but slowpitch softball. Rain certainly plays an impact. Yet another issue is overscheduling. Coaches will load up a schedule to guard against rainout disruptions, and when enough rain doesn’t fall, games are scratched. Sometimes the note gets beyond the clubhouse.

On other occasions, it’s prom conflicts. Teams in these parts have in some cases forfeited tournament games for prom. Prom, as you know, is the holy week of a high school year. And it isn’t just prom that trumps baseball. One area team a few years back forfeited its way out of the final game of a tournament on a Saturday because the annual senior trip to the Six Flags amusement park in Texas was that day.

Sometimes, it’s just because. A few years back, former Muskogee coach Doug Gunselman, to Fort Gibson coach Randy Smith’s surprise, sent his JV team to Fort Gibson for a varsity-level game. It didn’t sit well with the latter, and thank goodness Jeremy Griffin, in his second year in Rougherville, has brought that game back. The 7 p.m. start last week also helps what limited gate spring sports have and it sparks local interest when local teams play.

Granted, Muskogee is on an island of its own in the immediate area regarding natural rivals at the 6A level. More Muskogee-Fort Gibson and even Muskogee-Hilldale games would be good for local baseball and spring sports in general.

But overall, everyone and everything is on cruise control.  I think that carries over into the attitudes of players themselves, as one old-school area coach wondered about last week.

After a lifeless effort by his team last week, he told me that you’d think kids would be bothered by such a bad game, but these days, they don’t seem to be. You wouldn’t think that would be the case with successful programs, though, and one of those teams has conveniently forgotten calling in blowout road losses.

Spring flu? It does seem catchy.

The truth of this is, the symptoms are evident at the top and that’s way up at the top. The reason spring sports are crammed into just over two months is because the OSSAA doesn’t want to stretch it into mid-June. Who wants to be an official of a state event in June when that’s vacation time now? Oh and know that remark is tongue-in-cheek.

Down south of the Red River, state baseball tournaments occur in early June, headquartered out of the home of the Triple-A Round Rock Express, a little north of its former spot, U of Texas’ Disch-Falk Field — in its time one of the Taj Mahals of collegiate baseball. Softball deep in the heart of is May 28-31 this year.

Heck, a lot of coaches end up coaching summer ball anyway — in most cases, called football camps and passing leagues.

Tightening the schedule in the name of education doesn’t cut it. You might not want school extended past graduation or conflicting with Summer Pride and its many off-season related cousins, but no one seems to mind playing baseball games at 10 a.m. on a Thursday when, perhaps, math or English should be the focus.

Well, maybe that’s only before testing week.

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