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High school baseball is in the (cold) air
Nick Cooper
South Effingham's utility infielder Nick Cooper wears a knit cap over his baseball cap to stay warm during a workout on Jan. 19. The Mustangs began practice last week in preparation to open the season Feb. 12 against Screven County. (Photo by Donald Heath for the Effingham Herald.)

By Donald Heath

Special for the Effingham Herald


GUYTON – The boys of summer are getting started in the winter.

In accordance with Georgia High School Association rules, baseball practice began at South Effingham last week despite some frigid conditions. Temperatures on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday never reached higher than 47 degrees with lows between 27 and 25.

Too cold for baseball?

“You try to come out and get some things done because the last thing you want is someone out-working you,” SEHS coach Jesse Osborne said. “You want to keep the kids moving, so there’s no standing around. This isn’t ideal baseball. We know that.”

But South’s season starts Feb. 12 at home against Screven County, so the team has to get ready. According to, the temperature for an average February day in Guyton is between a high of 61 with a low of 42.

And if the Mustangs are fortunate to be playing in the state tournament in May, average temperatures jump from a high 84 to a low of 65.

Everyone complains about the weather, but South tries to do something about it.

“Reps, reps, reps, that’s what helps,” said SEHS pitcher/third baseman Dru Futch. “When it’s cold like this, stretching will help us perform our best. You don’t want your muscles tight.”

But hitting a baseball in the cold weather – “not fun,” says Futch, “especially if you get jammed.”

Ground balls – “You can feel the sting if you field the ball in the palm of the glove,” he says.

Pitching – “You’re trying to find that touch on the ball because sometimes it’s hard to grip,” he said.

Osborne pitched in college at Armstrong State in Savannah and the Pirates often opened their season in January. He understands the dilemma.

“Every pitcher is different but I struggled in the cold,” Osborne said. “When your hands get cold, they get dry and you lose grip. When you lose grip, it’s hard to spin the ball and do the things you want to do with it.”

Much like football’s heat acclimation period, just working out in the elements helps a high school baseball player’s acclimation to the cold. SEHS has a throwing program that begins in October. Pitchers won’t throw off the mound for about 7-8 weeks, Osborne said.

Players won’t be pushed in the offseason.

“You don’t want to see someone in midseason form in January or February,” Osborne said. “We don’t want to peak too early. No one is at 100 percent, velo-wise or strength-wise at this time of the season.”

It was a balmy 61 degrees on this Friday afternoon, but the next practice at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday threatened to be a cold one – temperatures in the 30s with a 10-mph wind.

“I hope we never play in those conditions,” Osborne said. “It’s certainly hard to prepare for. Baseball players are called the boys of summer and these temperatures are not summer at all.”