Northern Sun – Winter Games

Snowy Field

One thing that every Northern Sun Conference baseball team has to deal with is how to play baseball games when the college baseball season starts on February 1st and your home field might not be available until late March or early April (if then).  This blog has written earlier about how many teams are using the Metrodome in Minneapolis in order to get in games – Northern Sun Teams Fill Metrodome

While that is one option, the primary way that teams deal with the weather is to head south.  This poses its own set of challenges as there’s no guarantee of playable weather in the closest locations as we saw this past weekend for Upper Iowa – Upper Iowa Games Colorado Trip Canceled

The other issue is that these trips cost a lot of money.  A large number of these trips are planned to places like Missouri, Kansas and Arkansas so that teams can take busses instead of flying.  That means 10+ hour bus rides but it does save some money for these non-revenue sports that cost their schools a lot of money to maintain.  In addition to bus trips, many of the schools do like to schedule a spring trip to a warm destination like Florida & Arizona.  This option almost guarantees a large number of games but also forces head coaches to seek out funding for the trips.  In many cases the players are asked to participate in on-campus activities, like working at off-season sporting events to raise money, or the programs hold special fund raisers – Crookston Spaghetti Dinner

The upside is that it allows these northern schools to schedule 50+ games during the season and spread out games across a more reasonable schedule.  Here is a chart showing where each of the teams in the Northern Sun Conference will be traveling to this winter/spring –

image

As you can see, all but 4 of these teams will be taking what most would consider a “Spring Trip” to either Florida, Phoenix or Georgia.  Three of the teams are going to Fort Myers, FL to play in the Gene Cusick Collegiate Classic – Gene Cusick Classic Info.  Because there really aren’t that many other programs traveling during that time period, what ends up happening is that the teams end up playing each other in non-conference games.  For example, Minnesota Duluth and Southwest Minnesota State have 4 games against each other in Fort Myers.

With the current economic climate in this country one wonders if college baseball coaches will soon be making decisions about having to cut back on some of these types of trips or institute even more fund raising efforts in order to keep these types of schedules alive in the future.

Edit – After posting this article this morning I came across this timely piece in the LA Times that discusses how the economic downturn has teams in Division 1 college baseball considering changes to how they schedule in the future – Economic Downturn Could Lead to Tightening Belts

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