Huddled inside a Longhorn baseball field dugout as protection from a torrential downpour, former coach Teddy Pettet bemoaned to his players, “You can tell it’s baseball season — the weather has turned bad.”
While the ex-coach voiced the remark years ago, it remains true today.
For example, just as the spring sports of baseball, softball, track and field and golf were about to get under way this week, Mother Nature stepped in with snow, rain and winds that could force the postponement of some season-opening clashes.
Last week, many early practices for the baseball, softball and track teams had to be moved indoors to old PHS gym due to inclement weather.
The baseball team, first of the PHS teams to open the 2013 season, is scheduled to play today Friday, Feb. 22 and tomorrow in the Fountain Hills Invitational Tournament along with Northwest Christian, Bourgade Catholic Winslow and host Fountain Hills.
At press time, FH officials had made no indication of whether the games would be played, postponed or cancelled.
The Lady Longhorn softball team is also scheduled to play today and tomorrow in the Wickenburg Invitational but there has been no word on the playing conditions or weather forecasts there.
There also has been no indication of whether the Queen Creek Track and Field Invitational will be held tomorrow. If it goes off as scheduled, it will mark the PHS boys and girls 2013 debut.
The Payson High Golf team could avoid the turmoil because its season doesn’t begin until March 5 when weather conditions are expected to improve and wet grounds dry.
The team tees off at 2 p.m. at Chaparral Pines against Valley Christian and Gilbert Christian.
On to Estrella, Salt River Fields
Once the baseball season gets under way, the team has an ambitious schedule that includes an appearance in the sure-to-be-competitive Estrella Foothills Tournament, April 4 to April 6.
It’s expected to be a fierce showdown, mostly because the invitational field features state fourth-ranked Estrella Foothills and fifth-ranked Blue Ridge.
While Payson was unranked in the preseason poll, senior first baseman/outfielder/pitcher Nick McMullen is confident the team will do well.
“We are having fun, playing hard and have some good players,” he said during a scrimmage game last week.
McMullen is also looking forward to returning to the pitching mound after arm trouble sidelined him the last couple of seasons. “I’ve been working with Scott (Nossek, physical trainer and pitching coach) and my arm feels better than it has in a long time.”
As impressive as the Estrella tournament is, the highlight of the regular season could be a proposed April 18 game at Salt River Field against Page.
The pristine fields are the spring training homes of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies.
Just weeks ago, Payson High School first-year baseball coach Brian Young eagerly agreed to move the April 18 Longhorns game vs. Sand Devils to Salt River Fields from Page if all the logistics can be worked out.
Young says to play at Salt River Fields, “We have to sell at least 250 ticket vouchers for Diamondbacks games, but we can sell more to benefit our team.”
The ticket vouchers can be used from the onset of the season on April 1 until June 9 at Chase Field in Phoenix.
“The tickets are for the baseline reserve seating that is on the field, down the baselines,” Young said. “You can use them for any game of your choice.”
Once the vouchers are purchased, they can be redeemed at the Chase Field ticket office on game day for the best tickets available.
The vouchers will be sold for $25 each or $100 for a family of four.
“Normally, tickets are at least $35 each plus a $3.50 online fee,” said Young. “That would be $154 (for a family of four). So it’s a $54 savings if you bought them from the PHS baseball team.”
Vouchers may be purchased from any PHS baseball player or at the high school bookstore.
If the Horns do play on the pro spring training fields vs. Page, Payson fans will be admitted free of charge.
Softball, track and golf
On the softball front, the schedule highlight is sure to be the Gracie Haught Invitational March 22 and 23 at Rumsey Park and Payson High.
But while the event will be a much-anticipated shoot-out, all eyes will be focused on the postseason and whether the pitching-rich Lady Horns can win the school’s first state championship.
Last year, behind the standout pitching of Arianna Paulson, the team came within a whisper of a state title, losing in the semifinals to Bourgade.
The track team’s schedule includes three home meets — the Freshman-Sophomore Invitational on March 9, the Chuck Hardt Coed Relay on March 3 and the Longhorn Invitational on April 20.
The golf team, which traditionally has played most of its games on the road, has three home matches this year — the March 5 season-opener, a threeway match on March 12 at Chaparral Pines vs. Snowflake and Show Low and a March 25 clash at Payson Golf Course vs. opponents to be determined.