“Outside on the field, I can set up nine guys and hit the ball to them so they can practice ground balls or pop flies. In the gym, it is hard to simulate a ground ball on the hard floor compared to grass and you can’t really do a pop fly.”
— Justin Folley, Moffat County High School varsity baseball head coach, about the difficulties of practicing in a gymnasium.
The spring sports season got into full swing Monday with the first day of official practice for Moffat County High School teams.
For four of the five teams — baseball, track and field, girls golf, and girls soccer — practice means staying indoors for at least a couple more weeks.
For coaches and players who compete outside, practicing indoors because of the weather can make the early part of the season tough.
“Before we head to the Montrose Tournament on March 16, we will be in the gym until then,” baseball head coach Justin Folley said. “Some years, we are in the gym until April because with the different weather we get here, our field can stay muddy and make it hard to practice on.”
The baseball team practices in the MCHS gymnasium after school and the girls soccer team must also use the gym.
Head coach Harry Tripp has to push practice back to 6 p.m. as not to interfere with the baseball team.
And, the track and field team warms up in the high school hallways while the girls golf team practices their short game in the East Elementary School gymnasium.
“When we go in the gym, we can work on our swings and get our basics down,” golf head coach Ann Marie Roberts said. “But the weather limits our play time on the course. We have to hit plastic balls instead of real balls and we don’t get to work on our course management, like hitting out of bunkers or putting on a real green.”
Roberts said the girls do get to work on getting in a groove on their short game, but lack time to work on driving and putting.
The golf team competes in their first tournament Monday in Grand Junction and may have to play in three or four tournaments before being able to practice outside.
Last year, the lone home golf tournament of the season was cancelled due to weather.
“Not being able to play on our own course made the team kind of lose momentum last year,” Roberts said. “We are inside at least three weeks every year, and when we do get outside it is cold and that makes it hard to play still.”
While the boys golf team plays in the fall and has the summer to get in playing time, Roberts said the girls don’t have the same opportunity before their season.
“We can’t play before our season, so the first week of practice is the first time a lot of the girls have hit a ball in a while,” she said. “When we finally get to go play in a tournament, the girls are pretty excited to be outside and they have to use that time to work on things.”
For the baseball team, Folley said the main disadvantage of having to practice inside is the players don’t get to see real-time situations.
“Outside, on the field, I can set up nine guys and hit the ball to them so they can practice ground balls or pop flies,” he said. “In the gym, it is hard to simulate a ground ball on the hard floor compared to grass and you can’t really do a pop fly.”
As the baseball team heads into the Montrose Tournament on March 16 and 17, Folley said not seeing live pitching makes it hard for the guys.
But in the end, he said the team has to make good of what they can do.
“Seeing pitching from 60 feet outside is a big difference than practicing batting practice inside,” he said. “It can be hard to get into a flow because it can be hard to see the balls we have to use in the gym.
“When we have good weather, this is a great area to have spring sports. The weather just makes it tough in the beginning of the season.”
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