Drury softball coach Mary Ann Maroni has seen a lot in her 30 years coaching at the high school level. Consequently, there's a not much she hasn't seen. After Day One of tryouts for the Blue Devils, she took one giant step closer to seeing everything the sport can offer.
In her 31nd year coaching, Maroni held the first day of tryouts outside for the first time. After running her softball team through some calisthenics in the gym immediately after school, the Blue Devils headed outdoors to bask in the sunlight and increasingly warm temperatures.
"This is just incredible. It's unbelievable," Maroni said. "What a bonus it is to be able to get outside."
Temperatures broke the 80-degree mark in North County for the first time this year, setting a record for the day.
While ball diamonds weren't quite ready, most teams couldn't pass up the chance to stretch out their arms. Maroni said there's a chance her girls can get on the outfield grass today, moving them one step closer to a full practice.
"You are so limited in the gym," she said. "There are only so many things that you can do in the gym. You can't run the bases, you can't really hit fly balls to the outfielders. You can work on skills, and that's all you can work on in the gym."
On the other end of the coaching experience spectrum is McCann Tech's baseball coach. Pat Ryan, a ‘95 graduate of McCann, is in his first year at the helm, replacing long-time coach George Canales.
When Ryan took the job a month ago, he was preparing indoor drills and to buy wiffle balls. He should have spent more time putting together a plan for outdoor practices.
"Hitting wiffle balls at 20 miles per hour in a gym compared to actually hitting on a field ... it's night and day," he said.
Across the mountain, the Mount Greylock baseball team spent its opening day indoors.
The Mounties utilize Williams College's Towne Field House, which is fully equipped to handle a baseball practice, unlike McCann's gym, which does not have a batting cage. Greylock's field is in good shape and could withstand a practice, but coach Steve Messina preferred to stick with an old routine.
"The reason I do this, I always want to be inside for the first few days," Messina said. "It's like concentrated baseball. We're able to go through all these stations, all the drills. We go through all the fundamentals of field position, hitting stance, all the soft toss, tee drills. All these things we do in the beginning, so when we do go outside, if I tell these guys to go off a tee, they know what to do. It's easier to do all this stuff in here, in kind of a controlled environment than it is outside."
Drury baseball coach Al Marceau echoed the same reasons for keepin his team inside to begin tryouts.
The Mount Greylock tennis, however, took full advantage of the weather and conditions. In years past, the Mounties have been able to use William's indoor courts while the Ephs are away on spring break. But in the more recent past, that hasn't been an option. So like everyone else, they've struggled to work on their game in a realistic setting before the season starts.
With that obstacle behind them, Mounties girls' tennis coach John Jacobbe is looking to see it translate into a better postseason run. He said his team is in catch-up mode each year. On top of Springfield-area teams getting outside a couple weeks before Berkshire County teams, many of the top teams in Western Mass. and the Boston area play year-round. His girls don't.
"So for us, the quicker we can get out and start catching up and try to get into mid-season form a little quicker, it's just a huge advantage," he said. "We're just happy to be out, and it seems like it's going to be a good week all week long. Hopefully, it will just help us in the long run."