On Saturday afternoon, Mahaney Diamond in Orono lay idle.
Officials from the University of Maine and the University at Albany on Friday had postponed Saturday’s America East baseball doubleheader because of concerns about cold weather. The twinbill was moved to Sunday and the final game scheduled for Monday in the hope the weather would be better.
The Black Bears and Great Danes split their games on Sunday, but after the doubleheader it was determined that Monday’s forecast of rain or snow, wind and cold temperatures would preclude them from playing.
At 2 p.m. Monday, it was 34 degrees in Orono with light snow and a south wind at 16 mph, producing a wind chill of 24 degrees. As a result, UMaine lost its third game in the last six because of the weather and UAlbany dropped another conference game after its three-game series at UMass Lowell a week earlier was canceled because of snow and field conditions.
It marked the third time in five seasons that UMaine postponed a home game because of the cold.
Regardless of the sport or the situation, the welfare of the student-athletes is the primary concern of university officials. That’s the way it should be. However, the teams could have played at least one game Saturday with minimal physical discomfort to players, coaches, umpires and staff members.
Cold weather is an inescapable reality of early-spring baseball in the Northeast. It’s March. It’s often cold. Players through the decades have dealt with it.
And while in no way should it be suggested that student-athletes be subjected to conditions that legitimately put their health or well-being in danger, some shivering comes with the territory.
A quick Internet search did not yield a single case of a baseball player suffering frostbite — other than Hall of Fame outfielder Rickey Henderson, who once fell asleep on an ice pack (in August).
On Saturday afternoon in Bangor, Husson University played a North Atlantic Conference baseball doubleheader against Colby-Sawyer College. It marked the second time in three years that the Eagles played when UMaine postponed a home game because of the cold.
According to the National Weather Service, the Bangor temperature at game time (noon) was 31 degrees with a wind chill of 21 due to a 13 mph wind out of the north. That’s cold, but Husson and Colby-Sawyer played two, seven-inning games and finished up at about 3:40 p.m. At that time, the temperature was 36 degrees (25 with the wind chill).
By all accounts, all involved came away chilled but unhurt.
The game-time temperature in Orono on Sunday was 34 degrees which, with an 8 mph breeze, felt like 28. The temperature eventually rose to 40, which doesn’t take into consideration any warming generated by the sun’s heating of the crushed rubber used in the FieldTurf at Mahaney Diamond.
By day’s end, it was 32 degrees (25 with the wind chill), the coldest reading during the doubleheader. Everyone was cold.
The previous weekend at West Hartford, Connecticut, UMaine and Hartford canceled a Sunday doubleheader because concerns about the cold. The temperature ranged between 30 and 34 from noon to 6 p.m. with a steady 16 mph wind that put the wind chill in the 18-24 range, similar to Husson’s Saturday twinbill in Bangor.
In the interest of full disclosure, I am fortunate to work in an enclosed, heated press box at UMaine. And I know Mark Emmert of the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram was chilled to the bone in an unheated box on Sunday.
Baseball wasn’t made to be played the cold, but unfortunately it comes with the territory. Thus, if conditions do not endanger the health of the participants, the games should be played as scheduled — unless an alternative date provides certainty of better conditions.
It remains to be seen how the lost games might affect UMaine and other America East teams, which advance to the postseason based on their conference winning percentage. Presumably, warmer spring weather is on the way, but the canceled games are lost permanently.
In the meantime, it’s time to put on the Under Armour and a head covering, break out the hand-warmers and play ball.