Mathey’s Mantra: change the game

By Andrew Singer

Over two decades after coaching in his first college baseball game, there’s still one thing that NIU head coach Ed Mathey doesn’t understand.

Why would anyone voluntarily schedule games in northern Illinois in early March?

The roughly 20 games a year that NIU plays in cold weather have never made sense to the Huskies’ ninth-year head coach. Players are forced to dress in layers just to finish games with feeling in all their extremities.

NIU conducts pre-game batting practice indoors. Pitchers pray for short innings when their team is batting so they don’t lose feeling in their pitching arm. Huskie hurlers rejoice when the weather turns in their favor, even if for just a day.

“When it’s warm out, you don’t have to worry about tightening up in between innings,” said NIU starting pitcher Jeremy Gonzales of his Sunday start against Miami (OH) in 80-degree weather. “A long bottom of an inning doesn’t bother me at all when it’s warm.”

Mathey coached at North Central College in Naperville from 1989-2002 and knows as well as anyone the struggle it is to play in the cold.

“The weather is one of the things we know we have to deal with going into the season,” Mathey said. “It’s not just us, though. The entire MAC has to deal with it.”

Mathey would like to push the start of the regular season back a month, and while most coaches in the MAC would be for the move, skippers from the south may not feel the same. Baseball America’s most recent ranking of the top 25 teams in the country is dominated by teams that reside in the south. That, though, is exactly the reason why Mathey would make the move.

“I think it would level the field for schools around the country,” Mathey said. “Teams down south get the opportunity to play in warm weather all season, but teams in the north can’t do that.”

The NCAA made two relatively drastic changes to the game prior to this season, opting to introduce new metal bats and institute a 20-second time limit between pitches when there aren’t runners on base. Pushing back the start of the regular season has yet to make it far in NCAA discussions, however.

Mathey is a part of all meetings the NCAA holds for college baseball coaches about any potential changes to the game. Whenever the idea of pushing back the season is brought up, the Huskies’ skipper is all for the change, but has yet to see any significant changes come forth.

Critics of the decision would more than likely lie in the southern states. Coaches and players from up north, however, are quick to answer in affirmative of the move. Redshirt junior catcher Brian Riegler answered with one word when asked about delaying the start of the season: