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Rain Drops Keep Fallin' on the Fields

Over the past year, bad weather has wreaked havoc with Springfield mother Laurie Uhlman's schedule. Last fall, her son's soccer season was postponed because of the sniper. After a winter of multiple snow storms and school cancellations, her family faced spring rainstorms that resulted in canceled little league games

"We always go to my mom's house on Sundays," Uhlman said. "It's something we had to give up, sort of. It's been a very odd year in the area of sports."

Uhlman's son Brad plays AAA in the West Springfield Little League and younger son Tyler plays machine-pitch baseball. Their Memorial Day weekend is booked up as well.

"We've had a million games canceled," Uhlman said. "Half the season's been rained out. They lose their momentum. We have games on Sunday and Monday."

Rebecca Williams has two daughters in soccer with the Burke Athletic Club. Her schedule has also been adversely affected by the bad weather.

"We had a game on Saturday," Williams said. "That was canceled and then a makeup game on Sunday and it was canceled. We were supposed to end on June 7, now I believe it's going another week."

Baseball, softball, soccer, lacrosse and tee-ball teams are scheduled at Fairfax County Park Authority fields as well as some Fairfax County Public School fields. Playing in the mud or on the damp fields puts wear and tear on the turf. The park authority has a set schedule made up early in the year for all the games and practices.

The Fairfax County Athletic Field Maintenance Manual has a list conditions to close an athletic field, such as standing water, muddy conditions, footprints from normal walking and water gathering around the sole of a shoe or boot on the field.

The county also issues a warning for standing water: "Remember: Standing water occurs because the ground is saturated. Removing standing water does not eliminate the saturation. It is the saturation and not standing water that causes damage and unsafe conditions."

As far as the school field schedules, the coach makes the call on game day, according to Fairfax County Public Schools spokesperson, Paul Regnier.

"It's basically the users’ discretion and if they would damage the field, which the principal would make an assessment, they would be held responsible," Regnier said.

SPRINGFIELD YOUTH CLUB president Dennis Claussen tries to juggle everything.

"There's a lot of competing interests," he said. "Our top criteria is the safety of the kids. We've had to cancel a number of games, playing on a field that is too wet to play on could cost manpower and money. We certainly attempt not to do that."

About 3,500 area children compete in soccer, lacrosse and softball teams in the spring. They average 120 games going on at one time at 12-15 locations every weekend. Standing water is one of the criteria Claussen uses when judging a field’s condition.

"We're using school and fields across the county," Claussen said. "This kind of weather, it's not good for the fields."

Rafael Espinoza coaches a "U16" boys team with the Burke Athletic Club. He's trying to salvage something out of the season.

"The rain has put everybody in limbo," he said.

Even though the makeup games are sometimes rescheduled for Sundays, that doesn't work for everyone, Espinoza discovered.

"It's putting a big toll on everybody," he said. "We sometimes have players with religious affiliations."

Espinoza's team scrimmaged the Burke Athletic Club Bulldogs, an all-girl U-14 team, coached by Susannah Dunbar. They played at South Run Park, but the day before "there was standing water on this field," she said.

Although it was dry when they scrimmaged, the week's schedule was full. Rain was forecast too.

"The rest of this week, they have makeup games on this field," Dunbar said.

When a sunny day finally came on Monday, May 19, George Jett, a tee-ball parent, was thrown for a loop.

"The phone tree went off," he said. "It said cancel the game, the Fairfax County [Web site] said the fields were too bad to play," he said.

The phone-tree is a method parents use to contact each other so they can arrange carpools and baby-sitters.

The Web site warning was for Byron Field off Old Keene Mill Road. Parents looked at the sunshine and had the game nonetheless. Inch-deep puddles dotted the field but not on the baseball diamond.

"We can't afford to miss too many more games," said fellow parent Lisa Mataloni.

Bob Simmons coaches the West Springfield Athletics, another youth team.

"I don't know a season where we haven't had to scramble a little bit," he said.

Sheryl McNally noticed how the children are taking it. Last Saturday, even though there was a little rain, they played anyway.

"One kid slid into second and got covered [in mud]," she said. "We all laughed. They're having fun. That's the important thing."