A soggy outfield forced the postponement of the Michigan softball team’s home opener yesterday, but that didn’t prevent fans from getting a good look at the squad.
Spectators watched the Wolverines take infield and hitting practice, then mingled with players at the first-ever Michigan Softball Meet and Greet.
Despite clear skies and a balmy – for Ann Arbor – game-time temperature of 47 degrees, the stadium’s new drainage system didn’t remove enough water from the outfield turf to make the field playable.
“There was too big of a chance that someone could get hurt,” Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said. “And we could tear up (the field) so that we couldn’t play on it in two days.”
The contest against Bowling Green was rescheduled for next Wednesday, but many fans were unaware of the postponement and arrived at Alumni Field at 4 p.m. anyway. After learning the game would not be played, some stayed to watch the team’s afternoon practice session while waiting for the meet-and-greet to begin.
They were treated to a view of Michigan’s training routine, as Wolverine players rehearsed fielding bunts on the infield and took batting practice. Freshman first baseman Dorian Shaw took center stage by launching four homeruns, including a towering shot that landed on the roof of the Indoor Track Building.
“It kind of made it seem game-like,” junior shortstop Teddi Ewing said of practicing in front of fans. “It was cool to see people sitting up in the new stands. It was a good practice day, and it’s good to be out there on the field.”
After finishing its workout, the team moved inside to Oosterbaan Fieldhouse, where Hutchins introduced the team and recapped the non-conference portion of the 2008 season in front of several dozen onlookers. Players signed autographs and posed for pictures with local high school softball teams and young children.
“You just have this really big sense of community,” senior outfielder Michelle Weatherdon said before pausing to sign her name on a young girl’s poster. “You can tell a lot of our fans really care about our sport and about Michigan, so it’s really exciting to have people come in and be able to talk to them.”
Mike Rozelle, who runs the softball team’s booster club, brought his granddaughter to the event so she could see the softball players up close. Rozelle said that these types of events matter because where football, basketball and hockey fans often overlook sports like softball.
“We like to put some of these other teams in front of fans and get them out to support the team, so this is an opportunity to do that,” he said. “Hopefully, the new stadium has a big impact this year.”
Hutchins was pleased with the event and hoped fans enjoyed the opportunity to get to know some of the team’s student-athletes.
“Michigan softball has a great community following, especially with a lot of young kids,” Hutchins said. “Our players are great role models.”