The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


February 27, 2014

Henry: Spring sports should wait for spring weather

It happens virtually every spring.

College baseball and softball are spring sports, but their seasons begin before the spring weather arrives.

Take this weekend.

The MIAA baseball schedule includes Fort Hays State at Missouri Southern and Emporia State at Pittsburg State. Both series were scheduled to be played Friday through Sunday, but with cold temperatures and snow in the weekend forecast, schedules were changed to play doubleheaders today at both sites and hopefully nine-inning games on Friday and Saturday.

In softball, 18 teams were coming to Joplin for Missouri Southern’s annual Teri Mathis-Zenner Memorial Tournament. But for the second straight year, the tournament has been called off.

This is the second time this season that the Lions have been “weather forecasted-out” of a softball tournament. The season-opening meet on Feb. 7-9 at Southeastern State was also called off. So in the first four weeks of the softball season, the Lions have had more games canceled (12) than played (10).

Take last weekend.

Northwest Missouri State and Nebraska-Kearney opened their MIAA baseball slate in Coffeyville, Kan.  Yes, the Lopers’ home series against Northwest Missouri was moved 450 miles south to Coffeyville.

And it’s not just an MIAA problem. Wayne State and Minot State  — two Northern Sun Conference teams — played last weekend at JayCee Ballpark in Pittsburg, Kan. Those jaunts  covered 440 miles from Wayne, Neb., and 960 miles from Minot, N.D., for four NONCONFERENCE games.

It’s unlikely that the start of the baseball and softball seasons will be pushed back to the start of March when there’s a better chance of warmer and snow-free weather.

Another solution — particularly in baseball — is to schedule nonconference games early in the season and play a smaller conference schedule. The MIAA has already established that it is not vital to play every team in the conference — see football and baseball schedules.

This year the MIAA baseball teams are not playing league series against three members. Why not split the league teams into seven-team pods like basketball – seven Missouri schools and seven non-Missouri schools. Teams could play four-game series within their pods and have the chance to schedule non-league games against the other pod. The top four teams in each pod advance to the postseason tournament – a best-of-three series in the first round hosted by the top two teams in each pod. Those four winners advance to the double-elimination conference tournament at CommunityAmerica Ballpark in Kansas City, Kan.

But for now, baseball fans and softball fans will continue to first look at the long-range forecast and then check for possible schedule changes.

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