Monday, March 17, 2008
Somebody in my family tree came from Tipperary on The Old Sod, and therefore, I'm wearing the green today. After winning six of eight on our road trip and taking two of three from Georgetown at their place, we are having a happy St. Patrick's Day. The road will beckon and hopefully rise to meet us again Tuesday when we'll venture to Bridgeport for a battle with Sacred Heart and fly to Louisville on Wednesday, but today is a day to catch our breath.
I'm not exactly reflecting on snakes being driven from my ancestral homeland or watching the parade down Fifth Avenue, but a day in the office catching up on correspondence and preparing for the Pioneers is exactly what is needed before we wear our spikes for the first time this season in New England tomorrow. While leprechauns, cable-knits, corned beef and cabbage are at the forefront on this holiday, one mustn't forget the most celebrated characteristic of those who hail from Erin -- the luck `o the Irish is always worth celebrating.
We had a good helping of that luck on the ten-day trip in Florida and Washington. Firstly, Sam our bus driver from Constitution Coach picked us up for the trip to Logan Airport. That was a good omen in and of itself because in addition to Sam being a retired state trooper and proud Irishman himself, he was our driver for our run through the BIG EAST tournament in Brooklyn last spring. Secondly, our pitching rotation for St. Patrick's Day weekend against the Hoyas contained the names: McDonald, Mahoney, and Glynn. With apologies to the guys from South Bend, short of wearing shamrocks on our sleeves, it'd be tough to get more Celtic than that. And lastly, with youth so prevalent on our roster, we are as green as the Chicago River is today.
The wind was at our backs on Saturday and Sunday when we had some bounces go our way and took advantage of a couple of errors and a wild pitch late in both games to win. While we played good ball, had some great pitching performances from Dan Mahoney, David Erickson, Erik Turgeon and John Folino, and limited our mistakes, we also had a fair share of luck and the end result was two wins in two exhausting extra inning affairs. After losing on Friday, it was good to bounce back and take two before heading home to Storrs.
We arrived from Logan after midnight and as we were approaching campus on Route 195, snow flurries greeted us. Along with the flakes came the realization that the sun that shone warm upon our faces in Florida and even in the balmy Washington suburbs this weekend might not be in a rush to warm the Northeast this spring.
St. Patrick's Day means something other than wearing green to college baseball coaches in the North. It usually marks the beginning of the weather-watching season here - and that means avoiding the green blobs (I'll explain later).
When we return with our sun-burned necks recently earned in various southern and western locales, we are immediately plunged back into reality with information from the grounds crew about frost lines, saturation levels and wind advisories. We all become amateur meteorologists for the next few weeks. Mark Twain had it right when he wrote, "There is a sumptuous variety about the New England weather that compels the stranger's admiration - and regret.The weather is always doing something there; always attending strictly to business; always getting up new designs and trying them on the people to see how they will go. But it gets through more business in spring than in any other season. In the spring I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of four and twenty hours."
We coaches like to simplify, and while Samuel Clemens was probably right about those one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather, we all boil it down to simple colors. Of course, none of us listen to the grounds guys. After all, they are like the meteorologists. We certainly don't listen to them either. The grounds guys and the meteorologists actually have some background in that science gobbledygook.
No, no, no we Northeast coaches know all the science we need to know with our laptops, Blackberries and a wireless connection. We just avoid the green. Radar, or better yet, Super Doppler Radar, or any kind of radar that is of the "early warning", "plus", "max", or "first" variety is our favorite way to judge whether to have pre-game batting practice inside or out, when to move the game time up or back and if we'll be able to complete five innings before an ark is necessary. Light green blobs are bad. Dark green blobs are worse. Yellow is like seeing Nolan Ryan warming up in the opponent's bullpen, and red means run for the tarp.
As we all gear up for a college baseball season in New England, I hope all our programs get lucky and keep the green blobs away. And should those harbingers of postponements and cancellations invade our radar screens, it is my wish that they release the kind of rain (and not snow) that falls soft anywhere but upon our fields. Happy St. Patrick's Day.
- Jim Penders