The baseball field at Craig Middle School is home to two varsity teams: Moffat County and Steamboat Springs. Weather has forced schedule changes for both teams, causing concerns by coaches about their pitching staff.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

The baseball field at Craig Middle School is home to two varsity teams: Moffat County and Steamboat Springs. Weather has forced schedule changes for both teams, causing concerns by coaches about their pitching staff.

Baseball teams thrown a curve

Bulldogs, Sailors deal with weather, schedule crunching

— First-year Moffat County High School baseball coach Tim Hafey isn't used to it.

In fact, he said sometimes it's downright frustrating.

Hafey is referring to the team's schedule, the conditions of the home field and the caution he must use with the Bulldog pitching rotation.

Steamboat Springs High School's baseball coach Dave Roy is in his fourth season at the helm of the Sailors' program.

He's getting somewhat used to the issues associated with baseball in Northwest Colorado, but the Sailors still have no field available in town, and Roy has the same concern about arms as Hafey does.

The coaches have plenty of reason for concern.

Beginning Thursday, the Bulldogs are scheduled to play 11 games in 12 days, and the Sailors six in seven.

That is, if the winter weather stays away, which - using Sunday and Monday as an example - isn't necessarily a given.

The main concern for both skippers is arm fatigue on their pitching staff.

High schools generally use a three-man rotation.

For teenagers in the midst of developing their pitching skills, throwing without the proper rest can cause problems in the future.

"It kills your pitching," Roy said of the tightly scheduled games. "We haven't had a chance to get outside at all this year. Strong arms come from long toss, and you can't do long toss in a gym."

Hafey said the Bulldogs are set in their rotation, but without the proper rest, he doesn't know how effective they can be.

"You want to typically have four or five days rest in between starts for your pitchers," he said. "But now, with that many games so close together, that's going to have to go out the window. You have to pick and choose who pitches and how much rest they get. We have to pull them early if we get a big lead and pull them early if we get behind."

The Sailors and Bulldogs each call Craig Middle School home during the season. Combined, the teams will play 17 games the next two weeks at CMS.

Roy has been in this situation before, and he said he's learned a few things throughout the years when it comes to baseball in Northwest Colorado.

He scheduled the Sailors' first five games on the road at warmer climate venues - even giving up two home games - just to get them in.

"Usually, Craig and Moffat County are clear by this time of year," Roy said. "But this has just been such an incredible year. We've had 480 inches of snow over here, which equates to 40 feet of snow. When we get that much, Craig is going to get that much, too."

The Bulldogs and Sailors are alone in their schedule crunching.

The rest of the Western Slope has played at least nine games, forcing Steamboat and Moffat County to play catch-up.

"The only other team in our situation is Steamboat," Hafey said. "The rest of the teams in the league are playing their games. Coaches try to make their schedule in their favor. We're to the point now where it's in no one's favor."

Hafey said he'll be watching his pitchers closely, and at the slightest sign of fatigue, he'll make a move.

"I don't want to hurt anybody. I don't want to overthrow anybody," he said. "I still want to be in the thick of the hunt when the season's over. And 11 games in 12 days is pretty hard on high school kids."

The constant changing of the schedule, along with the winter weather, has taught Roy another valuable lesson.

"This year, Moffat is experiencing what we experience every year," Roy said. "I've learned a lot about practicing indoors."

John Vandelinder can be reached at 875-1793, or jvandelinder@craigdailypress.com

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