Column: Waiting on a sunny day

On March 8, Sports Editor Mike Smith was finally able to get outside and play baseball after one of the worst winters in recent memory. The area’s high school athletes will look to get out on the field too as the spring season kicked-off in earnest on March 10. Photo/Mike Smith

On March 8, Sports Editor Mike Smith was finally able to get outside and play baseball after one of the worst winters in recent memory. The area’s high school athletes will look to get out on the field too as the spring season kicked-off in earnest on March 10. Photo/Mike Smith

I’m not the sort of person who pays too much attention to Punxsutawny Phil and his seasonal prognostications. In my mind, it doesn’t matter what the varmint says, it’s officially spring when I can feel it in my bones.

So, while spring might technically be a few weeks away, this past weekend gave a little glimpse into what life might be like after these dreadful winter months. And you’d better believe I made the most of it.

As someone who grew up playing baseball in the northeast, nothing seemed to announce the arrival of spring quite like the first outdoor practice of the season. The first two weeks of each baseball season seemed an interminable bore, endless soft-tossing in a dingy gym with plenty of conditioning to boot. But that first day on the field, regardless of how nippy it was, was always a glorious occasion.

On Saturday, I got a little taste of the past as my summer baseball team finally got a chance to enjoy a brief respite in the weather and take some cuts in the sunshine.

For a group of weekend warriors like my teammates and me, nothing turns back the clocks quite like that first taste of baseball. For five hours, we shagged flies, worked on our bunt defense and even got to face some of our pitchers in a simulated game, trying to condense three weeks of practice into one extended session, not knowing for certain if the weather that relegated us to cage work over the last three months would return before we open up the season in April.

And we were hardly the only ones. We hopped on the ball field at New York City’s East River Park at around 9 a.m. only to watch as five other baseball teams also showed up, hoping to take advantage of the weather. Although we got there first, thus claiming the field for our own, the other squads—some of whom play in our league—all carved out their own areas in the park so as not to miss out on a 50 degree day that felt more like 75 given the brutal winter we all endured.

Though we might not have been practicing together, all of the teams out on the field—from the 14-year-old rec league players to the 30 year-olds playing pepper by the canal’s jogging track—echoed the same sentiment; it’s just great to be outside.

And it’s funny how one day outside can change your mindset. Sunday found me driving in my car, windows down, listening to a spring training game between the Yankees and Rays. Forget the fact that I’d generally rather stick needles in my ears than willingly listen to a Yankees radio broadcast, my eagerness to welcome the spring made every awful Sterlingism seem like vintage Vin Scully.

On March 10, the high school season officially kicked-off, with softball, baseball and lacrosse teams taking their first reps of the calendar year. And while nobody quite knows if winter is gone for good, and I certainly don’t speak for all our student athletes, I’m pretty confident that most, if not all of them, are looking forward to stepping out onto the field—and out of this arctic weather—as I was.

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About Mike Smith

Mike Smith has been with Hometown Media Group since 2007, serving as the company’s Sports Editor. Mike has been commended for his work by the New York Press Association, winning awards in 2008 for “Best Sports Feature” and again in 2009 as part of a team that put together “The Game,” a breakdown of the Harrison-Rye football rivalry, which won for “Best Special Section.” His weekly column, “Live Mike,” offers his unique insights into a broad range of topics in the sports world. He resides in Eastchester, N.Y. and spends most of his free time serving as the player-manager for a competitive men’s baseball team in New York City. Reach Mike at 914-653-1000 x22 or sports@hometwn.com; follow him on Twitter @LiveMike_Sports.