Old Man Winter says it isn't baseball season, Detroit Lakes volunteers say it is
A group of dads, brothers and community members showed up to the tennis courts and baseball fields in Detroit Lakes to wrestle with 3 feet of snow in an attempt to get kids on the fields.
DETROIT LAKES — The snow was blowing hard all day near the Detroit Lakes High School Wednesday, March 29, but this time it wasn't in the forecast.
Five tractor snowblowers were working in tandem across the large swath of snowy land that in warmer weather is the school's baseball field.
This March is one of the snowiest on record, which threatens to throw a huge wrench into the plans of spring athletes.
"My brother is in tennis, and they complained about not being able to play, canceling practice and being stuck inside," said Caleb Splonskowski, a Detroit Lakes graduate from 2021 and landscaper who works for his dad's HDQ Landscaping company. "So my dad emailed the (tennis) coach and asked if they'd like some help clearing off the courts, and they said absolutely."
The volunteer work Wednesday didn't go unnoticed as Detroit Lakes police officer Robert Strand was on patrol.
"I saw they (the Splonskowskis) were blowing off the tennis courts, and I thought that's a pretty good idea to get some sun on this and see if we can't get a head start," said Strand, who then called Detroit Lakes head baseball coach Terry Eiter to see if he'd also like some help with those fields. Eiter was glad to hear it. With his players practicing indoors for the past two weeks and a similar offer on the table from a former player of his, Cooper Hermanson, Eider accepted and the phone calls started.
Hermanson spung into action, as did Strand and a couple of guys he called. Caleb Splonskowski made his way over from the tennis courts to the baseball fields, and by early Wednesday evening, it was a full field of volunteers.
"Detroit Lakes is a proud community, and so many things get done with volunteers," Eiter said. "These guys don't have to do it; they're using their own equipment, their own fuel, their own time, and they might get a cold pizza out of it later on."
Even with five pieces of equipment running simultaneously and some guys who were no rookies on the field, the task was still a large one with about three solid feet of snow on the ground.
"It's just crazy that it's almost April 1st and we still have this much snow," said Splonskowski as the sun was beginning to set. "We've been out here for 8-10 hours, and we're still not done. There's that much snow, and it's taking forever, but it's part of living in Minnesota," he said, smiling.
Fresh off of work and still donning his police uniform, Strand said he knows there's more snow in the forecast but is hoping this will help warm the ground enough to speed up the melting of new snow. It's worth a shot, he says. "I just think of the kids and it being their last year for the seniors, and you just really hate for something like this to ruin their season." Strand says they'll also be trying to do the same thing with the girls softball fields.
Watching with a smile from a pickup near the fields, Eiter said he isn't shocked that they were all out there because he knew they were all all "great people and great community members." He said he feels blessed to have them help out and says the kids are really going to appreciate it.
"Some kids called and text me when they saw what was going on," said Eiter. "They're fired up." Eiter says it's highly unlikely they'll be playing their first scheduled game on April 11 but says they'll continue to do what they've gotta do.
"We're a hardy bunch," he said. "In the forecast, there's more snow, so we'll probably be back out here doing this again, but we're not going to give up. We don't quit."
The crew ended up staying until past 1 a.m. and is set to return to continue the job Thursday afternoon.