(GENO LUDWIG/Geno Ludwig has spent years covering sports for The Chewelah Independent and his “Nickel Bleachers” column is a decades-old tradition of Geno using his wit and knowledge to talk about Chewelah sports.)
Cancelled! Cancelled!! Cancelled!!! That has become the word of the week in the office of Chewelah athletic director Rocky Verbeck. When anyone asks about a scheduled athletic event, the answer is always the same: Cancelled!
“I have had to cancel every athletic event for this week except for possibly tennis — baseball, softball, golf, and track— because of snow on our fields. Our baseball and softball fields still have about a foot of snow on them, and the golf course has over two feet in most places.
“With all of Eastern Washington in the same predicament that we are, it will probably not be until after spring break that we will be able to start league spring sports. That means that all or most of the preseason games, meets, and matches will be cancelled if they have not already been cancelled. Nobody knows how wet their fields will be after the snow finally melts and how long it will take them to dry out.”
“Walt Salisbury, our district groundskeeper, cleared two tennis courts with the snowblower, and then Coach Denise Smith cleared off the rest on Friday and Saturday, so the tennis team is the only one outside. Walt also cleared three lanes of the track, and I went over and helped him for a while. Jason Tapia and Mac Franklin in the district shop fabricated a set of wheels for the snowblower so it would stay an inch or two above the track and not cut into it. Coach Tom Skok cleared the top layers of snow off the softball outfield when the ground was still frozen with the blade on his pickup.
“The fear is that if the snow melts too fast, the fields will be too wet to play on. The mixture of dirt on the softball and baseball infields has a lot of clay in it, so the water tends to puddle instead of drain, and the outfield grass stays spongy for quite a while.”
Verbeck is encouraged by the positive attitude of athletes and coaches in spite of the fact that they have had to practice indoors for three weeks.
“We have an outstanding turnout of athletes for spring sports,” continued Verbeck. “We have five spring sports and we have only two where we could use more numbers. The kids and the coaches have had a very positive attitude. With eighth grade basketball still in progress, the high school gym is already in use, so teams have had to share the middle school and elementary school gyms. And we are so lucky that Rone and Bo Katzer have allowed our teams to practice at The Body Shop.”
The baseball team is practicing three days in The Body Shop and two days in the middle school gym. The softball team uses The Body Shop twice a week and spends three days at the middle school. Both teams use the batting cage and the carpet-covered area next to it. The golf team has also been doing its workouts at The Body Shop. The tennis team was practicing at Gess Elementary, but has now moved outside. The track team has been running in the high school halls and on the streets. They may have made it outside this week. Distance runners were even seen taking a cross-country bike ride midway through the week. Some teams have even gone bowling to break up the monotony of their indoor workouts.
With temperatures rising into the 50s this week, most of the snow should melt and Verbeck can eliminate the word “Cancelled” from his vocabulary.