Douglas County has seen at least 33 canceled high school baseball and softball games this season due to wet conditions.
“It’s not been good for kids, coaches or parents,” North Douglas baseball coach Jeff Davis said. “It’s impacted umpires too. We couldn’t get one of our games in last week because there were no more umpires available.”
On the Oregon School Activities Association website it appears as though North Douglas baseball has suffered the most from the weather, with six cancelled games.
Davis said that number may be misleading, because other schools take their games off the website completely.
“The number of games that we’ve had rained out, I don’t know if it’s a saving grace but we’re all in the same boat, literally,” Riddle baseball coach Jim Titus said.
The Riddle baseball squad has had at least five cancellations this year, but what’s impacted the team even more has been the loss of practice opportunities.
“We’re a young team and getting outside is critical for our development,” Titus said. “We do have facilities where we can work inside, but we’re limited to what we can do. At our level we’re literally teaching the game to some first time players.
“You just have to be outside. We have an indoor batting cage and a portable mound and we can hit ground balls, but it’s not the same.”
According to weather reports, there have only been eight dry days in Roseburg since the beginning of the spring sports season.
Davis joked that most of those days were probably on Sunday, because his team has only been out on the field three times and the showers have turned the outfield into a swamp.
“We think we’re being creative with practice by working indoors, utilizing the track and finding any grassy patch we can to practice,” Davis said. “But this is going to have some effect long term in terms of skill development.”
“This is about as bad as I can remember and I’ve been coaching for 25 years,” Titus said. “I don’t know if it’s worse in terms of the amount of rain, but what’s really been bad is the number of dry days between games. It hasn’t allowed our field to dry up.”
Roseburg High School Athletic Director Russ Bolin agreed. “It’s been the worst rain I’ve experienced in my 13 years with the athletic department.”
For the baseball and softball teams, moving indoors to practice is a big adjustment compared to being outdoors.
“It’s hard to get any kind of consistency with this weather,” Bolin said. “It takes a toll on the kids, but it’s hard on the parents and supporters, too. They have to be ready for a game every day.”
While Riddle and some of the other small school do not have a tarp to cover their field and protect it from rain, some bigger schools in Douglas County do have that opportunity.
Legion Field and Stewart Park have been covered after every practice and the South Umpqua softball team has also been reaping the benefits of having a tarp this season.
“We have a field tarp and we keep it covered pretty much all the time,” South Umpqua softball coach Joelle McGrorty said. “We tarp every single day that we can get games in. If we can’t play at an opponent’s field we try to reschedule it so that we play at our field. We keep our field in the best shape we can.”
The top-ranked Lancers hosted Far West League opponent North Bend last week because the Bulldogs’ field on the Oregon Coast was unplayable. But even with the tarp the teams struggled to play in the wet conditions as it drizzled throughout the game.
“It was a hard game to get through because it rained and we had to keep adding to the field and keep it in the best shape we can,” McGrorty said. “It makes it hard on the pitchers, and the rest of the team as well, to keep the ball dry between every pitch and it makes the games harder and longer to get through.”
“The tarp has been a great investment. It’s saved us a couple of times already this year.”
But for smaller schools tarps are an expensive and not always a feasible option.
“For a number of years I wanted a field tarp and I was ready to start fundraising but then I was at a bigger tournament and it took both teams to try and roll the tarp up and we don’t have those numbers,” Titus said.
Tarp or no tarp the coaches, players and supporters have all been putting in extra hours making sure that the teams throughout the county are ready to play at a moment’s notice.
“We are very lucky to have coaches who take the time to make sure the field is in good shape,” Bolin said. “For the softball game against North Medford (which started at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday) the coaches were out there at 9:30 in the morning. Without their effort we wouldn’t have been able to play.”