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Story Last modified at 10:46 a.m. on Thursday, March 17, 2011

Spring sports start
Athletes take indoor practice before snow and ice melts

BY MATT TUNSETH
Alaska Star

photo:Sports

Chugiak baseball coach Bill Lierman helps pitcher Chris Grayhm work on a grip during a training session on March 18. Baseball, softball, track and soccer athletes are all working out indoors in advance of the upcoming spring sports season.
STAR PHOTO BY MATT TUNSETH

Spring sports are springing up around town despite the winter chill.

Track and field, soccer, baseball and softball seasons have now begun, with teams practicing mostly indoors in anticipation of the thaw.

Chugiak baseball coach Bill Lierman doesn't mind being indoors. He's just happy to have his players in training.

"Right now it just feels good to swing the bat and throw the ball," said Lierman, whose team has begun taking batting practice in a cage set up in the school's auxiliary gym.

Baseball and softball practice officially began the last day of February, even though the first games of the season aren't likely to be played for another six weeks. Lierman said that's just part of playing spring sports in Alaska, where the calendar for baseball, soccer and track and field is governed by Mother Nature alone.

He said the players are actually enjoying the time indoors so far, but noted that's likely to change as the days continue to lengthen.

"It starts getting tough the first week in April," he said.

With their ability to play indoors at The Dome in Anchorage, soccer and track athletes – those who have enough practices coming off spring break – will see their first official action within the next week. The Eagle River girls soccer team will be the first local squad in action when they take on West at 4:40 p.m. March 21. Chugiak's girls (4:40 p.m. vs. Dimond) and Eagle River's boys (6:30 p.m. vs. West) open their seasons the next day, while Chugiak's boys get rolling on March 23 at 4:40 p.m. against the Lynx.

Track and fieldsters will begin their indoor season on March 18 at "The Scramble" meet, which runs 3-6 p.m. Friday and 7 a.m. to noon Saturday.

There are challenges to getting the spring season going without any outdoor facilities available. Eagle River senior soccer player Mikai Hulse said a soccer ball doesn't the handle the same on a gym floor as it does on grass or synthetic turf.

"It's really hard because the pace of the ball is different," he said.

Soccer teams have had some time at The Dome, which is heavily booked and only allows teams limited - and welcome - time to play on a full-sized field.

"It's easier to spread out and see the field," Hulse said.

Chugiak boys soccer coach George Campnell said there are still things that can be worked on while waiting for the snow to melt.

"It's not really that big a disadvantage, other than on the turf the ball bounces differently and you hit it differently and it takes a while to adjust to the outdoors," he said.

And, he added, anyone who plays outdoor sports in Alaska faces the same thing every spring.

"Everybody has the same disadvantage."

Contact Matt Tunseth at matt.tunseth@alaskastar.com or 694-2727 ext. 215



This article published in The Alaska Star on Thursday, March 17, 2011.