The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

April 16, 2014

A Don McCormack column: Spring has sprung one big leak

Star Beacon

Paying a Wednesday morning visit to the variety store...

Think spring?

If this, um, err, uh... spring... feels a bit unusual for high school baseball and softball teams in Northeast Ohio, it is, to a point.

Most diamond squads, especially in this neck of the woods — at least the vast majority, which did not take a trip south during spring break — have played merely a handful of games. Some, in fact, have yet to play on their home fields.

It’s going to be one of those springs in which playing a full 27-game regular-season schedule is going to be all but impossible.

Boys and girls track squads and boys tennis teams aren’t nearly as affected because their hard-surface playing “fields” dry much quick than dirt and grass.

But really, this spring is not that abnormal.

In fact, in looking at the number of games teams from our coverage area have played each season through the decades, one need only to look back to three years ago — the spring of 2011 — to see a season such as the one we are experiencing... or, more accurately, not experiencing.

In 2011, almost every baseball and softball squad in our area played between 15 and 18 games, total, which includes postseason games.

So while this “spring” season is off to an admittedly awful start, thanks to Mother Nature, is isn’t really that unusual.

Knowing that, though, doesn’t make it any less frustrating for the players, the coaches, the parents and, you can bet, the athletic directors, who are left with the chore of trying to get conference games in without having to bump non-conference contests.

In other words, it’s one big, gigantic ugh!

Diamond doings

Speaking of baseball, yours truly ran across a couple of items regarding rules at the major-league level.

For example, did you know?:

From 1876 to 1911, MLB had an actual  rule that stated:

“Should the umpire be unable to see whether a catch has been fairly made or not, he shall be at liberty to appeal to the bystanders, and to render his decision according to the fairest testimony at command.”

Basically, The Men in Blue asked fans what they thought... biased, ignorant and quite possibly, drunken, fans, no less.

Clearly, that system didn’t work out too well, though the fact it stood on the books for three and a half decades is a bit mind-numbing.

However, even with the expanded use of replay that was put in place for this season, the controversies haven’t ended.

Even with multiple officials and instant replay that covers more angles than AP trigonometry, calls still get blown on a regular basis, and players either get away with it or are punished for what amounts to imaginary infractions.

That having been said, though, for those of us old enough to remember the different strike zones the Indians and the Atlanta Braves played with in the 1995 World Series, no amount of replay will ever be enough.

The other aspect of MLB rules that caught my eye the other day was this one:

Major-league rules now allow interpreters to accompany pitching coaches and/or managers on visits to the mound to talk to their hurlers.

While we have not seen that one utilized, yet, when you think about it, it does make sense.

A lot more sense, in fact, than the aforementioned, now-defunct rule where umpires solicited opinions from spectators.

McCormack is the sports editor of the Star Beacon. Reach him at