Thinking spring during the winter of our discontent

Until our Loons ground crew commenced snow removal operations today, the question of whether Dow Diamond’s grass would actually be visible at some point was as much rumor as fact.

The snow removal confirmed the rumor as true, but when you consider that we’ve been stuck in the aptly-named Polar Vortex – an inhuman mix of cold, snow, and worn-out snow blowers – it wasn’t easy to just accept it as gospel.

The fact is, no one really remembered when the ground wasn’t covered in layers of snow. There certainly was no dreaming of a white Christmas, because it was right there in vivid reality.

A view from the first base dugout at Dow Diamond the morning after a recent snowstorm.

A view from the first base dugout at Dow Diamond the morning after a recent snowstorm.

It’s been more than snow, though. It’s been weeks of wicked cold, which has made a brisk 7-degree morning seem like the new normal. A day in the 20s is reason enough to roll down car windows. And people who emerged into the bright sunlight of a recent 40-degree afternoon had the same gloriously stunned expressions of lottery winners.

But baseball will be played here. Make no mistake about it. The Loons home opener is April 8, and barring some last, evil tentacle reaching out of the Vortex, a game of baseball will commence at 6:05 p.m. against the Cedar Rapids Kernels. Unless it rains, of course, but that’s another matter entirely.

This isn’t, after all, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where in 1978 nearly 356 inches of snow was reported by students of Michigan Technological University in Houghton. It’s been said of the U.P. that there are two seasons: 1) winter, 2) A few months of bad skiing. Just for the record, Michigan Tech does not have a baseball team.

Despite the obstacles, these two Wisconsin colleges in the following video do play baseball, however, and probably should have paid their hot chocolate vendors by the mile during this brisk outing at the ballpark.

Not that Michigan, and the Great Lakes Bay Region, has exclusive rights to the Vortex, or fierce winters in general. Truth is, we’ve had a string of mild ones (which didn’t necessarily translate into mild springs and summers, mind you) until getting hit with this season’s frosty haymaker.

For instance, Kansas City was nailed with a snow surprise last May, which certainly put a damper on that day’s Royals-Rays game at Kauffman Stadium.

Atlanta's Justin Upton tries to stay warm during last season's game in Colorado in which temperatures dipped to 23 degrees.

Atlanta’s Justin Upton tries to stay warm during last season’s game in Colorado in which temperatures dipped to 23 degrees.

But then there was last April’s doubleheader in Denver between the Rockies and Braves, in which temperatures at Coors Field bottomed out at 23 degrees. That didn’t stop Atlanta pitcher Mike Minor from wearing short-sleeves. Said Minor, “I don’t know what it is, but with (long) sleeves on, I feel restricted. It’s just a feeling and you want to feel comfortable out there.”

As a non-baseball aside, this state’s long-suffering Lions fans (yes, long-suffering may be redundant) won’t soon forget this past season’s game at Philadelphia in which eight inches of snow fell during the course of the game. The Lions’ loss was somewhat more tolerable because of the sheer fun of watching a game played in a blizzard.

But baseball’s rich history is certainly filled with cold and snowy tales, including those that took a wrong turn in the flurry-filled proceedings. The 1907 opener between the New York Giants and Philadelphia Phillies was called when frustrated Giants fans pelted the field – and umpire – with snowballs when their heroes fell behind 3-0.

Still, in the course of a season rainouts will always lead the way, leaving snowouts in a category all of their own – one that is, thankfully, rarely accessed. After all, winter can’t last forever.

Can it?

Dow Diamond in the summer when winter gone. Long gone.

Dow Diamond in the summer when winter is gone. Long gone.


Make no mistake, the U.P. is brutal again this season. Lake Superior State doesn’t have a baseball team either, but we do have girls softball, and it’s rare that they get ANY home games in during the season. Very much looking forward to minor league baseball this spring, though, and hoping to catch our first Loons game on April 13.

Mike – the U.P. is a beautiful place, tough winters or not. Hope to see you at Dow Diamond on April 13!

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