Lebanon County baseball teams look to take advantage of their extra outdoor practices and preseason scrimmages in the season ahead
By virtue of the leap year phenomenon, 24 extra hours were tacked on to every 2016 calendar money could buy.
Nearly one month removed from that bonus February day, Lebanon County's high school baseball coaches could swear they had instead bought themselves two additional weeks.
Blessed with unseasonably warm weather since their first day of practice on March 7, area ball clubs have hit the diamond more often this preseason than during any in recent memory. Infield dirt everywhere is already cratered by ground balls and clouds tickled with skying pop-ups, as these skippers seize the opportunity to pound the game's fundamentals into their players under a premature sun. Teams have also been able to pencil multiple scrimmages into their schedules, an item previously found solely scribbled on a coach's wish list.
Unlike many Marches before it, the time for live hitting and pitching this spring did not arrive with a regular-season opener. It came with the very first grasp of a bat and snap of a curveball.
So what will this all amount to?
In truth, only more sun-glazed time between the foul lines will tell. For now, aspirations across the county remain a mix of league and district playoff berths, with some talk of taking the season one game a time and focusing on the process sprinkled in.
Palmyra and Annville-Cleona, last year's only district qualifiers, both return a significant chunk of their respective postseason rosters. For those who believe in a team built up the middle, through its catcher, middle infield and center fielder, the Little Dutchmen stand strong. Yet theirs is not the only clubhouse constructed in such a way.
In fact, all of the remaining county programs can boast to having brought back at least one of those three pieces in addition to some pitching. But will another season also bring about answers to the following:
Can Cedar Crest and Lebanon Catholic avoid repeating their troubles of recent past?
Will Lebanon out-run its own losing history into a new era?
Is there enough at Northern Lebanon or Elco to topple the perennial section powers ahead of them?
There's no questioning they've had ample, even extra, time to prepare.
Now it's just time to play ball.