It’s Not Arizona, Toto

6/28/2006 – Daily News Record

After five straight rainouts, the Turks are ready to play baseball again. Daily News Record Written By Joe Lemire Baseball Hall of Famer Casey Stengel once said, "There are three things you can do in a baseball game. You can win, or you can lose, or it can rain." The Harrisonburg Turks have had their fair share of all three. Thanks to a five-game rainout streak – with more precipitation in the forecast – the Turks are nearing an even record with nine wins, nine losses and six rain postponements. For some, it’s been an unusual experience. "As you can tell from me being from Arizona, it’s not possible to see this much rain," catcher Matt Denker, a Tucson native, said Tuesday. The players initially welcomed a day’s rest from the rigors of the NCAA-sanctioned Valley League schedule, but – not surprisingly – the break is getting a tad tiring. They are, after all, here to hone their skills and try to impress pro scouts. "At first, it was kind of a nice break because we had just played [eight] games straight, and that takes a toll on your body," said Yavapai Junior College outfielder Evan LeBlanc, another Tucson native. "For the first day or two [of rain], it was good. By the third, fourth, fifth, it’s been like, ‘Let’s get back to playing ball.’" The players’ competitive streak, intensified from the nightly baseball games, doesn’t just go away. As much as possible, the Turks have been working out at Nautilus Fitness Center, taking cuts at an indoor batting cage, challenging each other in video games (Madden, MVP Baseball and other assorted EA Sports titles) and inventing alternative apartment games, including one that involves the ceiling fan. According to first baseman David "Moose" Dennis, it works like this: toss an empty water bottle into the fan and watch it get deflected around the room, with points awarded for hitting certain landmarks like furniture or people. "It’s starting to get to us," Dennis, who plays for San Diego Community College, said of the apocalyptic downpours. "If we have any more rain, we’ll go crazy." With an uncommonly stubborn storm system loitering over the Mid-Atlantic, the city has received about 6 inches of rain since Friday. The Turks haven’t played since losing to Staunton 2-1 Thursday and have now endured five straight days of rain and called games, which is wreaking havoc on their future schedule. Friday’s rainout at Front Royal will be made up July 20, Saturday’s contest at Waynesboro will be played July 10 and Sunday’s home date with Woodstock was postponed until July 11. The games from Monday and Tuesday have not yet been rescheduled, and future off-days are rapidly disappearing. "It’s really putting us in a bind," Turks owner/coach Bob Wease said. "I don’t know what we’re going to do if it keeps this up for three or four more days." Harrisonburg’s only remaining open dates between now and its July 23 regular-season closer are the July 4th holiday, the VBL All-Star Game on July 9 and July 17. The options to make up the postponements are to extend the season or to start playing doubleheaders. "Coming from a league in junior college where we play doubleheaders all the time, I know how tiring that can be," said LeBlanc. "If we’re playing eight, nine games in a week, by that point, everyone is going to be looking for a break. We’re going to run out of pitching and guys’ arms are going to get tired." To amuse themselves during the unexpected monsoon season, the Turks have been watching soccer – "We’re becoming World Cup fans all of a sudden, because it’s the only sports on TV," Dennis said – and movies such as "Batman Begins," "Cars," "The Break-Up" and "Behind Enemy Lines," among others. Wease said he would pick up his starting rotation where it left off, with either Matt Baugh or Justin Wood pitching the first game and the other pitching the second game. While the break from baseball might be extreme, pitchers are still glad to have some rest. Hitters? Not so much. They’re fretting they might lose their timing. "If it does happen, it’s going to happen to a lot of the other teams," LeBlanc said. "It wouldn’t surprise me if the offensive numbers fall off for a lot of the guys in the league." Meanwhile, everyone’s been playing amateur meteorologist. "We’re just checking out the Weather Channel, and the Doppler and seeing where everything is," Tim Wheeler, who pitches for Oral Roberts University, said. "It seems like it’s just been sitting on top of us for the past week." It may be optimism more than science, but Wheeler was even ready to make a prediction. "It’ll stop raining tomorrow," he said. "That’s what we’ve decided." He might be right. The official forecast for today: hot with a diminishing chance of rain.