Those were baseballs, not snowballs, that were being thrown out there. Many of the players wore boots, which were preferable to cleats, but perhaps not as helpful as snowshoes might have been.
The boys of — summer? — are back.
The scene that played out on Monday afternoon surely wasn’t something one would see at a Florida spring training camp. On their first official day of practice, members of the Mattituck High School baseball team headed outside behind the school where, standing on snow and ice, they threw long tosses to each other — and appeared to have a good deal of fun in the process.
What better way to spend a “snow day” than by playing in the snow?
“I say all the time that the weather doesn’t dictate how Mattituck practices,” said coach Steve DeCaro.
Jon Dwyer twice laid out on diving attempts to catch balls (he caught the first, but not the second), with the snow breaking his fall. Ian Nish, wearing high-top sneakers, found himself knee high in snow, catching throws with his first baseman’s glove. Marcos Perivolaris, wearing boots and a grin, stood high atop a pile of snow, as if he was on a pitcher’s mound, showing his pitching delivery.
It was all in the name of fun, which judging by the smiles and laughs seems to have been achieved.
“It’s a very unique way to begin the season, but if we have a chance to throw outside, even if it is in the snow, we’re going to take it,” said Nish.
Not that the weather on Monday was bad. It was actually quite pleasant. The temperature had reached 50 degrees and there was little or no wind. Except for the snow-covered fields, it would have been a fine day for an outdoor practice.
The Tuckers threw outside for about 15 minutes. Later in the day they expected to face live pitching in their indoor batting cage.
The Tuckers hope to finish the season with the same sort of smiles they showed in their opening practice. Last year they had a tremendous season, going 21-4 (the most wins they have had in a season during DeCaro’s 13 years in charge) and reaching the Southeast Region Class B final before being sent home by a powerhouse Rye Neck team.
Only four players from that Mattituck team graduated. Seven starters return, not including catcher Mike Onufrak, who started some games.
Expectations are high. How high?
“Huge,” second baseman Chris Dwyer said, putting an emphasis on the word. “Everyone’s expecting more than last year. That’s big.”
By all appearances, the Tuckers are loaded, perhaps even better than they were last year. They are striving to be smiling 96 days after their first practice, when the state championship game is to be played in Binghamton on June 13.
“Coach says at the start of every meeting, he says, ‘We’re in this to win the state championship,’ and I think we will,” Nish said. He added, “When you go into a season expecting that you’re going to win a state championship, it’s always fun.”
DeCaro has already called this one of the strongest Mattituck teams he has coached. “In fact, I would say if we do not finish with a win this year, it’s going to be tough to handle,” he said. “Everybody has high expectations. The whole school has high expectations for us.”
Perivolaris, a senior who will enter his fifth varsity season, said the team has “a great chance to go very far.” Comparing it to last year’s talented squad, he said, “We’re excited because we’re older and much stronger and we’re a lot more smarter as well.”
Players have been working out over the winter, hitting indoors to be ready for their season, which is scheduled to begin March 28 at Hampton Bays. Sure, it’s extremely early in the process, but DeCaro likes what he has seen from his players.
“They look great,” he said. “I would say that our team looks pretty prepared. They look stronger than they were last year. From what we’ve seen, they’re ready to go.”
Snow or no snow.