March 16, 2017
Playing baseball in temperatures near freezing can be absolutely miserable.
But if certain tactics are utilized, nasty conditions can be minimized so athletes can focus on playing the game instead of shivering.
Have you ever heard the saying, “If your feet are cold, put a hat on?” It is absolutely true. If you don’t have the proper head protection, a high percentage of body heat will go right out your head. Some authorities say that up to 90 percent of heat loss can go through the head.
You can do everything else right, but without good head protection, you are still going to freeze.
When temperatures dip near freezing, you should never wear only a baseball cap on your head.
What were the New York Yankees wearing during the coldest days of the 2010 World Series? Everyone wore a balaclava when temperatures dipped near freezing. And then baseball caps were put over them.
A balaclava is traditionally knitted from wool and can be rolled up into a hat to cover just the crown of the head or cover the whole head, exposing only the face or upper part of it and sometimes only the eyes.
The name balaclava comes from the town of Balaklava in Crimea, Ukraine. During the Crimean War, knitted balaclavas were sent over to the British troops to help protect them from the bitter cold.
When it is warmer, you can pull it down around your neck, and it will act like a scarf, allowing you to cool off without worrying about having to stuff it in your pocket and potentially losing it.
When weather gets extremely cold, you can pull it up over your head.
If you want to protect your face from the wind, you can adjust it to cover everything but your eyes.
Sources include outdoor shops and internet stores which deal with cold weather gear. Three of the biggest are Land’s End, L.L. Bean, and Cabela’s.
In talking to numerous baseball coaches over the years, the two most used cold weather strategies involve the use of air activated hand warmers purchased at outdoor supply outlets as well as air activated foot warmers.
Depending on the brand you use, they can last from 2-20 hours before they stop generating heat.
A more expensive route is battery-powered hand and foot warmers.
Many players utilize batting gloves with a couple of hand warmers inside.
Joe Kellner, a former pitcher at the University of Arizona and earlier at Yavapai Junior College where temperatures can dip below freezing during games, also is an avid hunter who has worked in freezing weather over the years.
“Beyond hand warmers, which are widely available today, you can do several things to stay warm in cold weather,” said Kellner.
“Hot water bottles work extremely well. You can put them in your lap to keep you warm and have your fingers under them.
“Hydrocollator heating units that are used by trainers are great at keeping water bottles warm in the dugout. Ice chests can also be used to keep the water bottles warm if you don’t have a hydrocollator close by. But the water bottles must obviously be warm prior to putting them in the ice chest.
“When I was at Yavapai J.C., there was a guy from the East who had heated socks powered by a battery pack. But instead of using them on his feet, he used them to keep his hands warm.”
Collegiate Baseball talked to several well known pitching coaches across the country, and each advocated using pine tar for pitchers if the temperatures dipped near freezing.
However, all of them said that if you are caught using pine tar as a pitcher, you will be ejected for using an illegal substance.
One of these coaches said that a good substitute is mixing powder fine rock rosin and sun tan lotion which forms a sticky substance similar to pine tar. Experimenting with different sun tan lotions is a good idea before actually using this concoction in a game.
This same coach said that when temperatures get near freezing, the fingers of the throwing hand dry out and become numb.
Using a formula such as this helps pitchers have a better grip on pitches in cold weather.
Layering is another important concept.
You need to layer your clothing so you create layers of insulation. Unfortunately, most people focus on the last layer and buy a heavy parka when they should be focusing on the first layer — the layer closest to your skin. Purchasing a good first layer to wick moisture away from your skin is essential.
According to experts, you don’t want your first layer to be cotton, known by many hunters and outdoorsmen as “dead man’s cloth,” because it retains moisture.
A moisture-wicking clothing such as Under Armour is designed to be worn under sportswear next to your skin.
Keeping moisture off the skin is essential in frigid weather.
Another favorite of hunters in cold weather is Capilene underwear made exclusively by Patagonia.
You can also find inexpensive polypropylene winter garments for a lower cost.
Wool is another good first layer, but many people can’t stand wool next to their skin without it becoming irritated.
A good rule of thumb, according to hunters who routinely go out in frigid weather, is to spend more money on a good first layer of clothing than on the last.
For the second and third layer, make sure that the clothing isn’t tight.
It needs to be loose fitting so that it can provide insulation. A heavy sweater and good winter coat should suffice.
Some hunting experts advocate using Polartec fleece in the second layer. Others say that Helly Hansen garments are outstanding.
The concept of layering includes your feet, so no cotton socks. Ideally, you will wear two layers on your feet, the first layer being a very thin sock of polypropylene type fabric discussed above.
This fabric is nearly as thin as a nylon stocking, but it will shield your feet from the next layer.
For the next layer, you want wool socks.
To read more of this story, purchase the March 10, 2017 edition of Collegiate Baseball or subscribe by CLICKING HERE. It includes more in-depth information about utilizing portable propane heaters if no power is available and much, much more.