Soggy start

Fans wait out a rain delay at Social Circle High School's football stadium.

While many enjoyed the first four days in a row without rain since December, precipitation is back in the forecast for the foreseeable future and it could continue to cause issues for the spring sports season.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Atlanta and the surrounding metro area, including Walton County, has received over 20 inches of rain since the start of 2020. Comparatively, Seattle has gotten a little over 13 inches of rain in the same time period. The average rainfall amount for Atlanta through the first three months of the year is right at 10 inches.

The abnormal amount of rain has caused major problems to local prep sporting events. During February, multiple region basketball tournaments, including the Region 8-AA and 8-AAA tournaments, were postponed due to flooding in northeast Georgia. But it’s been baseball that’s been hit the hardest by the excess rain.

“Practice has been tough,” Walnut Grove head coach Carl Allen said “We’ve probably spent more time in the gym than on the field.”

Much of Walnut Grove’s problems have come from a combination of the rain and a leaky sprinkler system under the field.

“There is a low spot in left/center for us and it was holding a lot of water early this year. We had to dig a trench and push the water out under the left/center field wall. Our other tough spot is left field,” Allen said. “This past winter we had a leak in our irrigation. The leak, coupled with the rain has led to left field being wet pretty much all year. There have been days at practice we have coned-off certain areas to keep our players from walking and running through due to the water it was holding.”

However, even teams that don’t have an issue with field drainage have been affected.

“Our field drains really well. We have a plate and mound tarps. We have treated our field each year with laser grade and turface,” Monroe Area head coach Chad Kitchens said. “But when you get half a year’s rain in a month it doesn’t matter what preparations you make. You just have to wait till the field dries out.”

Due to field conditions, many early season baseball game have been postponed on canceled. But with region play creeping up, coaches are feeling the pressure to get games in despite more rain showing in the forecast.

“So far we have been able to push back and move around our games on a varsity level. However, the closer it gets to region and the more games we have to push back, we will eventually run out of dates,” Allen said. “This has made for some tough stretches of games, but in the long run I think it will help us to see the depth of our team moving forward.”

Monroe Area and Social Circle’s first regular season contest on Feb. 19 was canceled due to field conditions at Burks Field in Social Circle, but when Monroe Area had cancellation two days later Kitchens and Redskins head coach Kevin Dawkins jumped at the chance to play two five-inning games.

“We just need to get some games in before we get into region play,” Dawkins said. “We’re young and need game experience.”

However, soccer, especially at Social Circle, hasn’t been affected nearly as much over the past few weeks.

“Surprisingly, we have not had any games cancelled due to rain,” Lady Redskins head coach Heather Richardson said. “Antime we had a game in jeopardy of being cancelled we moved it to our turf field.”

Social Circle installed a turf field in 2015 when it opened its new athletic complex, so for Richardson and her team, player morale because of the weather has been a bigger challenge than actually playing games.

“I think the rain has definitely been difficult morale wise. We haven’t been able to practice as much as we would have liked. We usually move to the gym if it is raining badly. It is good that we have that option, but it is not as good as practicing on the field. But I do not think we have been affected as badly as other teams because of our turf field.”

Brett Fowler is the sports editor of The Walton Tribune. He is a 2016 graduate of the University of North Georgia and a 2010 graduate of Monroe Area High School. Brett has been covering Walton County sports since 2011.

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