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Athletes shine through rain

Senior catcher Jake Bailey discusses playing in the rain. Photo courtesy of Chico State.

Slippery hands, drenched uniforms and muddy cleats all come along for the ride while competing in a downpour.

Adjusting to the differences in game play while at the whim of the weather is another task completely for three Chico State athletes.

Sometimes baseball games are called due to the rain. This is the worst part about playing in the beginning of spring for senior catcher Jake Bailey.

“I hate having the uncertainty of if we are playing or not,” Bailey said. “I always want to go out and play.”

Not staying warm enough is a problem that arises when dealing with rain. Temperatures can drop below what athletes are accustomed to during the season.

“When its cold and rainy, you want to stretch a little more,” Bailey said. “You never want to tighten up.”

For players on the diamond, cold hands can be uncomfortable and throw an athlete’s game off.

Bailey wears batting gloves every game, no matter what the temperature is, he said. The gloves keep hands warm and help hitters avoid a weak grip that may be caused by the rain.

The change in weather means changing attire for most outdoor athletes. It’s time for long sleeves, Bailey said. However, sleeves are not an option for him.

“When I’m playing, my body gets warm anyways,” Bailey said. “Although most prefer sleeves, I feel like they get in my way.”

Sleeves are also an obstacle when playing the game for Kelli Keefe, a junior middle infielder on the softball team.

“I never wear any Under Armour,” Keefe said. “I stick to just my jersey because I like to have full movement. I just bundle up in my big jacket in between innings.”

A rainy day does have its benefits on the infield. The water provides smoother dirt, eliminating some of the bad hops taken on an ordinary day.

“I can really tell the difference fielding that ball when its raining,” Keefe said. “It’s just important to get a good grip on the ball before you throw it. You don’t want it to be flying all over the place.”

A clear head and relaxation at the plate are vital to a successful hitter. When drops of water are constantly blurring vision, it can take away from a batter’s focus and make it hard to see the ball out of the pitcher’s hand.

“It all depends on if the wind is blowing,” Keefe said. “If it’s blowing rain in my face, it makes things difficult, but it’s something you learn to just play through.”

All-American decathlete John Brunk knows what it’s like to play right through the competition.

Being a decathlete means competing in both the track and field events. Brunk competes in 10 different events during a two-day span.

“At Chico State we practice when it rains,” Brunk said. “It’s something that our team is accustomed to.”

No matter what event Brunk is competing in, he knows ways around the poor weather, he said.

He prefers to wrap up in a rain jacket and poncho between his events, he said. For Brunk, keeping track of his body is just as important in the rain as it is in the sun.

“It definitely has more cons than pros,” Brunk said. “One thing that most people forget about in the rain is to stay hydrated. Being that it is so wet outside, it’s usually the last thing on someone’s mind.”

When the ground is wet, it makes it easier to slip during throwing events, he said. Those kind of things can make one uneasy.

Brunk shined through the rain at last week’s home meet and topped his personal best in the pole vault.

“I had some stick spray that I put on my hands and the pole to avoid slipping,” Brunk said. “I felt pretty good about it. I didn’t expect to do what I did because it was pouring rain and I was soaked.”

Ryan Grady can be reached at [email protected] or @RyanGrady23 on Twitter.

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