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Give your spring coach a hug ... he or she deserves one

This just in: Coaches of spring high school sports are grossly underpaid. Kids who play spring high school sports should be up for commendations within the Presidential Physical Fitness Program.

Look at it this way: Would you want to be out there for hours at a time in this weather?

Nobody else endures this. Fall athletes and coaches start practice on summer's green fields and only at the end deal with the chill of November. Winter athletes and coaches have climate controlled gyms. But the spring folks? Oy. It's like the weatherman can put this on a commemorative stamp until further notice:

"The weather today is cold and lousy with continued dreary and miserable this evening. Tomorrow, a chance of continued grim with a cold front coming from the north." Those May flowers better be spectacular after this.

But, alas, they forge on. Only the lacrosse people — you get the idea they'd play in a blizzard and enjoy it — don't seem to mind. Everyone else?

"Sometimes, I wonder if God wasn't a lacrosse player," Fitch baseball coach Jeff Joyce said. "I've stood atop the hill at Fitch and wondered if I wasn't paying for the sins of humanity. Anybody who has played, umped or watched a baseball game in March and April can say they know what the fifth ring of Hell feels like.

"What's funny is that I've had many conversations with my spiritual masters and teachers while in the pew of the third-base box, asking for just a little ray of sunshine or temperatures above freezing. Then a huge gust of arctic wind will blow and I'll just say to myself: 'my prayers must have gotten frozen on the way up.'"

(God, I love that guy).

Figure that hitting a baseball isn't easy under ideal conditions: projectile speeding along between 80 and 90 miles per hour and moving. Or the tennis ball coming at you with spin. Or the golf ball. Or trying to get loose and, say, run hurdles in weather where it's cold enough to hang meat on them, let alone jump over them.

That's why we beg you parents: Be nice to your spring coach. Buy him or her a coffee. Be nice to your kids if they strike out, pull a hammy and dunk a tee shot in the water. Try not to make too many pronouncements about who can play and who can't. It's mid-April and raining.

"You can't get loose. You can't get stretched. Then you worry about the kids pulling something," Waterford baseball coach Art Peluso said. "Sometimes kids don't want to even want to make contact because it hurts. Even when they square the ball up they still get ringing in their hands."

Peluso was quite happy it was about 55 Monday afternoon. Aruba by comparison. His catcher, Justin Keating, hit a pair of home runs that landed about 10 minutes ago.

Then came Tuesday. It rained. Back in the gym. This is a recording. Imagine if the basketball team had to use outdoor courts in January?

"We've been inside probably 80 percent of the time so far," East Lyme baseball coach Jack Biggs said. "I think we've had two practices outside. That's it. A couple of scrimmages outside and it's 38, 39, 40 degrees.

"Usually, kids start to separate themselves as it gets warmer. You get outside more and see the kids compete in games versus competing in practice. Throwing strikes to live batters in situations versus pitching in a gym. It's not easy to evaluate players until you get outside and compete."

At least the baseball guys get to bundle up. Layers. Under Armour. How about the tennis crowd?

"It's hard to play tennis in this weather," Waterford senior Mike Gianakos said. "The courts get slippery so fast and the wind can completely change the direction of the ball."

The long range forecast says 64 and sunny next Monday. Great day to get outside, finally. Bring the sun tan lotion. Meantime, think a happy thought for your favorite spring coach. It's not easy being them, you know.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.


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