By Bailey Pennycuff / Co-Sports Editor

Dripping sweat. Sweat so bad, it feels as though their gloves are going to fall off. Such a horrible sweaty mess, that it mixes with the dirt from diving the play before, making a muddy mixture on their bodies.

This is what most baseball and softball players are used to. Imagining their summer-ball days, compared to what the Hutchinson Community College teams are facing now, is a bit of a difference.

Over the past couple of weeks, the baseball and softball teams haven’t dared to hold practice outside on the field, even though their seasons have started. However, these teams have found a way to keep working.

“The cold weather has forced us to practice inside,” HutchCC softball coach Jaime Rose said. “When it is below freezing, we either practice in one of the Sports Arena gyms or rent out time at Home Plate Club. When stuck inside for an extended period of time, you have to sometimes find creative ways to work on different aspects of the game.”

Creativity is, in fact, a dire necessity for these outdoor sports coaches, and baseball and softball aren’t alone. The golf team is prepping for its spring season, and traditional outdoor fall sports like football and soccer and being played in the spring after COVID-19 concerns moved those sports from the fall to the spring.

“Our practice schedule has been thrown upside down. We have practiced in four different facilities, trying to be as creative as we can possibly be,” HutchCC baseball coach Ryan Schmidt said.

Even though the cold has impacted the location of practices, true athletes give 100 percent effort, no matter where they are.

“Although even with us practicing inside, I truly believe we do get better with each and every practice, whether it’s inside or out,” freshman infielder Madison Simoneau said.

Unfortunately, practices are not the only aspect of these sports that are being disrupted.

For the softball team, the weather has caused three rescheduled doubleheaders, and one has been cancelled.

The baseball team has cancelled three doubleheaders, and rescheduled two.

“We’ve pushed games up, and moved games back in order to try and get in every game that we possibly can,” Simoneau said. “I know the entire coaching staff and everyone involved is working very hard to help us achieve getting every game in – and for that, I’m so grateful.”

Regardless of the amount of practices, the Blue Dragon coaches make sure their teams are prepared to play anytime.

“The weather is outside of our control, and when you play an outdoor sport, you get used to it,” Schmidt said. “The message to our team has been ‘Be ready for the next scheduled game.’  We have to be ready no matter what. There have been seasons in my past where the first time you were outside was on your first game down south somewhere.”

Same for the players, they do not like to be cooped up indoors during what should be their scheduled season.

“If you have played an outdoor sport long enough, you have encountered weather related layoffs before. Once we get back on the field, I know the players will be very eager to play,” Rose said.

While the HutchCC campus was closed Monday and Tuesday, Rose’s childrens’ schools were shut down the same days.

“We are definitely an outdoor family. The kids have even braved the sub-zero temperatures to sled. Like everyone, we are looking forward to some warmer, sunnier days,” Rose said.

Schmidt’s life away from baseball has not changed much, as his children are not physically going to school.

“Remote learning has kept the kids in a rhythm with school. We have stayed pretty close to the house with the weather. Our family is just rolling with the punches that Mother Nature throws at us,” Schmidt said.

Additionally, Schmidt has found a way to be grateful for these frigid times.

“I think the weather inspires creativity,” he said. “I think it allows you to slow down. It gets to be mental too. You have to find ways to motivate yourself, but more importantly you need to find the ways that are going to reach the players and help them grow and develop. You have to rise up and meet the challenges.”

As a player, time at practice cannot be the only time work is put in. In order to be great, it takes a great deal of determination, and it requires keeping the end goal in mind.

“Staying motivated definitely isn’t easy when the weather gets like this, and I’m sure most people would agree with that. But personally, I try and do what I can indoors and my teammates are truly the ones that keep me motivated,” Simoneau said. “My overall goal for the season would be to play to the best our best, in every single game and have fun doing it, because if we’re doing that, we’ll be more likely to be successful overall in our season.”

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