With the economy in the toilet, and April weather about as bad, some of those in decision-making positions have contemplated the effects those two factors have on Minnesota State High School League athletics.
Proposals to combat both have ranged from reducing the number of classes and starting seasons later to moving sports to different seasons.
Before discussion, or decisions, are made by the MSHSL board meeting June 8, particularly regarding spring sports, the voices of two lakes area coaches, authorities in their respective sports, must be heard. Those authorities are Brainerd's Lowell Scearcy in baseball and Staples-Motley's Glen Hasselberg in golf.
Brainerd Warriors baseball coach Lowell Scearcy reacted after winning his 600th game during the 2008 season. Scearcy is in his 40th season of coaching baseball.
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Scearcy is in his 40th year coaching high school baseball. He ranks second in MSHSL history in wins, first among active baseball coaches, and has won two state titles.
Hasselberg is in his 37th season as a high school golf coach. His Cardinal teams have won three state championships and two S-M individuals have won state titles. He plays as many rounds and tournaments annually as any golfer. In addition, his five children have played, or will play, collegiately.
Among the discussion items is to start later in the spring and play in the summer, a direct conflict with Legion and VFW programs.
"This is going to be a tough one for seniors, juniors too for that matter," Scearcy wrote in a letter to MSHSL officials. "Kids who have summer jobs and are trying to save money for college, a car, whatever, are going to have to make a tough choice. Kids who play ball will miss out on part, or in some cases all, of their summer jobs. Kids who feel the need to work will not be able to participate in high school baseball.
"Our economy is also factored in. Some kids are paying almost $400 to play ball on the high school team. This is on top of buying a glove, shoes, hat, etc. I fear pushing the season farther into the summer is not fair to kids and would force them and their parents to make a choice we, as coaches, don't want them to have to make.
"We will lose kids who want to play ball, and kids who play will lose out on jobs. That's not doing what's best for kids."
Another discussion item is discontinuing double-elimination tournaments, which Scearcy believes would be a major setback for high school baseball.
"I would not be exaggerating to say the elimination of double-elimination tournaments would set Minnesota high school baseball back 25 years," he said.
"Baseball is not like other sports," Scearcy added. "It changes greatly from game to game, depending on who's pitching. There's a good reason Major League Baseball has played a seven-game championship series for over a century. The best baseball team cannot be determined in a single game. We have all seen the best team beaten in the first round by a one-pitcher team.
"The beauty of double elimination is that the best team has a chance to come back. To put an end to double-elimination tournaments would turn the clock back to a time when it was not a team game and one pitcher could win it all. Many kids from that era were overused, developed arm trouble, and were never the same pitcher again.
"The advent of double-elimination section tournaments, which coaches fought long and hard for, turned baseball into more of a team game involving several pitchers, and went a long way toward assuring the best team, not the best guy, became champion.
"I feel strongly that putting an end to double-elimination section tournaments is bad for kids, bad for baseball, and bad for everyone concerned. If a certain section wants single elimination, fine. It's up to them, but if we pass a blanket rule like this, we are not doing what's best for kids."
Prep golf is in its second season with three classes. There has been discussion to return to two, which Hasselberg opposes.
"I don't know if it's been allowed to run its course in terms of seeing what the membership wants, and I mean members of member schools that voted to do this," Hasselberg said of three classes. "With that being said are they willing to go to four or five classes in football? I think they've mentioned (reducing classes in) wrestling, golf and basketball. Are they going to go to two classes in baseball or two in softball? What's the justification? Why would one sport go down and not another, when member schools haven't asked for it?
"If something comes out statewide, and they've got a real issue about budgets, in that case it should be across the board, less classes in all of the sports that now have multiples."
There has been discussion to move golf from spring to fall. Hasselberg is past president of the golf coaches association, which has opposed that move.
"We more than one time surveyed coaches, schools, athletic directors and every single time fall golf comes up, it's been blocked or stopped," he said. "Someone out there wants fall golf and they're not willing to quit. They're not willing to take the 3-5 times membership/constituents said, 'No, we don't want it.' They don't accept it.
"Look at what's offered now in the fall for boys: Football, cross country, soccer. Could a Brainerd support fall golf for boys? Without a doubt because of their enrollment. Would Staples-Motley or Pillager or Pequot Lakes? Probably not.
"On the girls' side, there are five sports in the fall. In the spring we have golf, track and softball. If they're willing to move girls' tennis or volleyball to the spring and want golf in the fall that wouldn't be a problem.
"To me it's fruitless to move girls' golf. Suddenly, you would have six girls' activities in the fall. Who, other than (big) schools could support that?"
Hasselberg is receptive to starting the season a week later. If the season was played in the summer it would conflict with Junior PGA and PGA Tour Minnesota programs.
"The golf coaches association, a year ago, requested the state tournament be moved to the same week as state baseball," Hasselberg said. "That was the request from the golf coaches association, which has not been acted on.
"I'm OK with starting later in the spring, and ending one week later. So instead of state golf being June 4-5 it could be June 11-12. Then there's still a lot of summer left. That's when the state baseball tournament is. It seems to work for baseball.
"We've got coaches who say kids need summer jobs. Doesn't baseball have (its state tournament in June)? Baseball seems to get along fine.
"Any community or kid or coach involved in the state golf tournament is going to make it work if it's one week later. If it's a month later, like the Fourth of July, then it's a whole different package. That doesn't work."
Mike Bialka, sports editor, may be reached at email@example.com or at 855-5861.
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