Grab a shovel and put the Vikings where they belong |

Grab a shovel and put the Vikings where they belong

And playing in their final high school home game today … at shortstop, Greg Bruso … on the mound, Bret Uppendahl … We’re glad Carson High School could serve as a home field for the South Tahoe High baseball team this spring. We wish the Vikings luck in the zone tournament.

Don’t laugh, the above scenario may happen if any typical, monstrous March snowstorms come our way. Another three or four feet of snow deposited on Todd “Snow” Fields or the Field of “Melting” Dreams and baseball and softball could be doomed in our town this spring.

It’s sad because everything else around us is signaling that baseball and softball seasons are near. Temperatures have risen 20 degrees above normal, trees are budding, birds are singing and some insects are making chance returns.

But trapped inside South Tahoe High’s gymnasiums are some talented Viking baseball and softball players who won’t know how good they can be unless they take the field sometime soon.

Isn’t it about time the community helped them play the game the way its supposed to be played: outside.

In other wet years, the city of South Lake Tahoe, which owns Todd Fields, has told the high school it can’t use heavy equipment to remove any snow for fear of damaging the surface of the field. Fine. Perhaps several snowblowers can be used to bring the snow level down to six or 12 inches. Or if that isn’t suitable, how about fielding an army of 100 shovelers to clear some of the load, so these kids can practice and play some home games this season.

Viking baseball coach Ralph Clelan, who is employed by South Tahoe Refuse, has previously inquired about removing snow from Todd Fields.

“They think if we drive a ‘dozer or a snow cat on it, that we’ll screw the field up. But it’s their field, so they do whatever they want with it,” Clelan said. “But I have people who want to donate all kinds of stuff. If they’d let us shovel it, I’d be out there in a second.”

Parks Superintendent Steve Weiss said the city has never permitted heavy equipment to haul snow from the fields, and no one has tried shoveling it.

“I feel for the kids. They need the fields to play on, but it’s hard to fight Mother Nature,” Weiss said. “You run the risk of leaving ruts and causing damage to the irrigation system and turf by driving on it with heavy equipment. Plus, I have the feeling we haven’t seen the last of the snow.”

Organized shoveling will be permitted, according to Weiss. As of Monday afternoon, 31 inches of snow covered home plate and 32 topped the pitcher’s mound at Todd Fields. The snow depth ranged from 42-to-48 inches at the Field of Dreams.

Precious time is slipping away. Shovelers and baseball followers need to unite. Don’t give the players an excuse for not succeeding this spring. Let’s see how good they can be.

“It makes sense to me to play baseball on grass rather than in a gym,” said STHS Athletic Director Frank Kovac. “It seems our kids hit midseason form right at the end of the season.”

El Nino or no El Nino, Clelan hasn’t seen the baseball diamond much in March and April since he took over as coach three years ago. He doesn’t like to make excuses for losing the past two years, but he feels he can only accomplish so many fundamentals in a gym.

“People can say coming out of the gym there should be no excuses, but we can’t pitch off a real mound, we can’t hit the cutoff man and can’t take fly balls in a gym. Those three basic things, they have to do to win this game,” Clelan said.

“But we really have it down to an art. We have five hitting stations, they take ground balls and they play catch, that’s all they can really do.”

Clelan said he and his coaching staff felt uncomfortable during tryouts on Saturday, evaluating talent based on their ability to play gym baseball.

“That’s not fair to anybody. It’s not fair to the people we cut and it’s not fair to us because we’re going to make mistakes,” Clelan said.

Meanwhile, Viking second-year softball coach Jan Johnson is making the best of the gym confines.

“I’ve told the kids we’re not going to use the weather as an excuse anymore,” he said. “We have plenty we can do fundamentally within the gym.

“We’re going to be dressed for snow. Someone once said, ‘You’ve got to get happy or innovative or you’re going to get steamrolled.'”

Since the school owns the Field of Dreams, Kovac may coordinate something with school maintenance for snow removal, possibly enabling the softball team to practice and play at home.

“I’m going to be out there shoveling with the kids to get it down the best as we can. It’s a shame that that field is ready to be played on for the first time in 25 years and it can’t be used,” Johnson said.

After Sunday night, Clelan had added incentive to put his team on the field.

“I’m real fired up, especially after coming to the gym (Sunday night) and seeing 33 kids waiting for me,” said Clelan of the nonmandatory workout at the school.

Let’s clear the way to let these kids play baseball and softball the way it should be played. It’s not too much to ask. We hardly ever let the white fluff keep us from going to work or school. Give them a chance to form some memories at home and make the games accessible to parents.

If the school needs a shoveler, phone 542-8010.

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