Weather puts a damper on sports

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By Matt Birkholtz

For Grant County High School Athletic Director Scott Shipp and Williamstown High School Athletic Director Todd Dupin, the record rainfall has caused issues with the spring sports programs.

“We’ve had several events canceled and rescheduled,” Dupin said. “We have only had 19 softball games and 13 baseball games. At this point in the year, we should be in the low 20’s for both sports.”

Even with the cancellations, Dupin realizes it is just a part of Mother Nature.

“It has been a nuisance and a pain,” he said. “Rescheduling transportation and umpires has been a pain, but it is the nature of the beast in spring sports. You deal with the rain in the spring, snow in the winter and heat in the fall.”

The process of deciding whether to cancel or play the games is an all day event.

“The first thing I do is if they are calling for rain, I start observing the weather at 9 a.m.,” Shipp said. “I get the radar up on my computer and check it about every hour and look at the hour-by-hour forecast and seeing how the weather is going to affect the area.”

Shipp said if the fields are tarped, they hold the decision until sometime between 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., before he and the coaches can make a decision. Most of the softball and baseball games for varsity start at 5 p.m. and if there is rain approaching after the original start time, the teams will try to get at least five innings in, to make the game official.

However, if the fields don’t have a tarp and it is pouring down rain, Shipp said the decision would be made around 2 p.m.

“That is the normal thing we do with the schools,” he said. “If we cancel by that time, they can cancel their buses and avoid having the away team make the trip.”

A couple of instances during the season, GCHS has been a part of cancellations that happened after the team was on the bus or at the site. The Braves had a game at Western Hills High School and the buses were on the interstate, before WHHS canceled the game. Another instance was when Henry County High School was at GCHS and it looked like the game was going to get in before the rain.

“They no more than got their warm-ups in, then it started to downpour,” Shipp said. “So, it is just a lot of playing things by ear and whether we have the tarps on the field or not.”

With games being canceled or postponed to a possible makeup depending on whether the game is a district seeding game, the schools lose money on the cancellations.

Shipp said that when the school takes the gate admission and varsity seven-inning game and a junior-varsity five-inning game, it costs $120 to pay each umpire. He said at the gate, he usually makes just enough to pay one umpire.

 “Our district games are our big gate games,” he said. “We make the largest amount of money during those games. When those games are rained out, we get hurt really bad.”

Shipp added that the concession money is the biggest amount of revenue generated for the boosters and if any game is canceled, they lose money.

For Dupin, he sees how the rain has affected attendance at Williamstown games, but he did look at a positive from the rainouts.

“In a sense, with all of the postponements, our budget hasn’t been depleted as it normally is,” he said.

Both Shipp and Dupin leave the decision of making the games up to the coaches.

“The coaches are given a lot of responsibility,” Dupin said. “I look at it as an athletic director, that the baseball and softball coaches know the other programs and work their schedules.”

Dupin said the Williamstown coaches work the field and determine whether or not they can play.

“If they think their players can play, I want them to play as much as possible,” he said. “We are going to obviously going to make sure the playing surface is safe for the players, but there has been a lot of no-brainers this year.”

Both directors also agreed this is the most cancellations they have had to deal with during their tenures.

“One bright side is that the fields are nice and green” Dupin said.