There are no ceilings outdoors. And, there aren’t any hardwood floors, either; just grass, dirt and space.
For area high school teams, the differences between their usual spring preseasons spent inside gyms and this spring preseason spent on grass and turf are countless. And, area coaches say the added outdoor practice time will result in visible improvements on the field.
“I’m hoping all around you’ll see a cleaner baseball game,” said Roy C. Ketcham baseball coach Pat Mealy. “From us to our opposition, we’ll be accustomed to being outside.”
In the case of baseball and softball, practicing outdoors has allowed outfielders to track down fly balls and practice relays to the basemen, and infielders have been able to work handling tricky bounces off the dirt. For lacrosse teams, the fresh-air practices have equated to boundless space to roam.
Our Lady of Lourdes girls lacrosse coach Mike Galatich said his team has already begun work sharpening its transition game.
“It helps the girls learn each other’s tendencies,” Galantich said.
The average high temperature for Poughkeepsie in February 2016 was 45.4 degrees, 6 degrees above the normal average high temperature of 39.4 degrees, according to Ingrid Amberger, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albany. The warmth left the area with little snowfall through the winter, and eliminated the annual thaw spring teams normally have to watch from indoors.
Ketcham’s baseball team, which reached the Section 1 Class AA finals last year and opens on the road against Clarkstown South on March 31, was able to hold tryouts outdoors this year and has been practicing on the diamond.
“Just being able to get groundballs off the surface, fly balls in the air and live reads off the bat for defense,” Mealy said. “That’s probably the biggest aspect of being outside.”
Ryan Naccarato, the head coach of the Marlboro softball team, has had his Iron Dukes out on the field since tryouts, as well.
“When you’re in the gym, you’re limited to what kind of drills you can do and what kind of situations you can simulate,” said Naccarato, the first-year coach who inherits a team that reached the New York State Class B final four last year. “On the field, you have no limitations and you’re able to accomplish everything you need for the season.”
Each coach now expects the early outdoor practices to pay dividends once the season commences.
“Say we’re in the gym the last two weeks and there’s a foot of snow on the ground,” said Naccarato, whose Iron Dukes open their season on April 5 against host Warwick. “I think that would impact us. If we were stuck in the gym I’d have faith, but it would take longer for us to adapt to our surroundings. I think the transition will be much more effective.”
The Lourdes girls lacrosse team hosted a multi-scrimmage on Friday with Red Hook, Wappingers, Arlington and John F. Kennedy Catholic. The Warriors won their first Section 1 Class C playoff game a year ago.
“It’s always better than being inside in the gym,” said Galantich, whose team starts its season against Horace Greeley at home on March 30. “The drills you’re running are more realistic because you’re using a full size field as opposed to a gym, where you have to be aware of space requirements.”
Working outside, Galantich said, gives him “a good look at where they need to focus.”
And, a bit of a jolt.
“I think it just gives everyone that extra boost,” Galantich said. “Spring is here, the season is here and we’re not shut up inside.”
A.J. Martelli: email@example.com, 845-437-4836, Twitter: @AJM_PoJoSports