Scouting, sleuthing and shivering/The Red Line

You know how they say an idle mind is the devil’s workshop?

Well, the Red Wings are kaput, the Pistons finished nowhere near the playoffs, the Tigers are roughly 130 games away from the finish line and I’m on record as hating the NFL Draft with a passion.

We’ve had a handful of outdoor athletic events this week, with several more in the days to come. This hasn’t kept me from doing a little investigating.

I can report that the softball field behind Houghton High School is perfectly playable. In fact, the snowbanks beyond the outfield fence not only provide a neutral backdrop, they reflect light back on the field, thus improving the photography conditions.

Monday’s home opener attracted a nice gathering of people, and a fox who ran just past the outfield fence. The fox could not be reached for comment.

Track and field is still on for Friday in both Lake Linden (involving the Lakes and most of our area’s small schools) and Ontonagon (including the Gladiators, Houghton, Calumet and L’Anse, among others). The May 9 start date for the meet marks the exact same point in the calendar (22 days before U.P. Finals) at which the outdoor season started in the Copper Country last year.

Softball district play also takes place right after Memorial Day. Calumet and Houghton will participate in a district hosted by perennial powerhouse Gladstone (though it’s non-traditional in nature, so quarterfinal games will be played outside Delta County).

Manistique travels to Calumet for a game May 28 in the quarterfinals, while Houghton drew the hosts. The semifinals and finals are in Gladstone on the weekend.

The other four softball-playing schools in the area are in a big Division 4 bracket to take place in Ironwood. They’re all in separate quarterfinals in the eight-team tournament: Ironwood vs. Jeffers, Hancock vs. Ishpeming, Norway vs. Lake Linden-Hubbell and L’Anse vs. Stephenson (all to be played on May 27). The semifinals and final are May 30.

Houghton will be making its first entry in the Division 3 district baseball tournament in Gladstone, a one-day event May 30. The Gremlins will play Superior Central in the second of two semifinals, and if they win, will see Negaunee or host Gladstone in the final immediately afterwards.

According to MHSAA rules, one must host baseball and softball districts jointly, which means Houghton is the only school that can currently play a postseason game at home.

Then again, the Gremlins can’t currently play regular season games at home. The Stanton Ballfield isn’t playable, so Houghton has moved its three home games (Monday vs. Marquette, May 15 vs. Ironwood, May 21 vs. Negaunee) to Hancock Driving Park.

Those of you who might want to tee off yourselves may have some driving or waiting to do. L’Anse Golf Club opened Sunday for walking players only. A check-in at Portage Lake Golf Course reveals a target of mid-next week, threatening the course-record late opening date of May 14 last year.

I couldn’t get a hold of personnel at Calumet Golf Club, Wyandotte Hills or Ontonagon, but I’ll pass along what word I get when I get it.

And finally, I can confirm swimming season is not yet ready to begin.

Well, duh, you say. Swimming season starts in November.

I was referring to outdoor swimming season you know, the kind with beach towels and sunscreen and such. Definitely not ready.

I confirmed this firsthand in the Portage Canal earlier this week by accepting a “Cold Water Challenge” in the name of being a good sport and journalism.

I’d describe the sensation of taking a dip in these conditions, but to do so would require describing sounds my body involuntarily made that I don’t think I can express in text.

After living for four years in the basement of the honors dorm at CMU, I figure I was probably overdue to make some bad decisions. Better to reenact “Titanic” than “Animal House.”

The moral of the story is bigger than just ‘Don’t jump in a partially-frozen lake,’ but rather, some things just shouldn’t be rushed.

Though if you’re a local prep golfer, track athlete, softball or baseball player, feel free to just stop at ‘don’t jump in a partially-frozen lake.’

Brandon Veale can be reached at bveale@mininggazette.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/redveale.