For college baseball programs like Jamestown College, and many others, the Metrodome has been a sure thing when it comes to getting a few early-season games in.
With the extreme winters in recent years, the 29-year-old Minneapolis facility was the one sure safe haven where teams like the Jimmies knew they'd get to play.
Well, not this year.
The Jimmies don't start practice until Feb. 1, but coach Tom Hager is already scrambling for replacements for his team's first four games after officials from the Metrodome announced on Wednesday that the facility would not be useable until at least March.
Three panels of the fabric roof collapsed Dec. 12 during a storm that dumped 17 inches of snow on the Twin Cities. It has since been determined that nine panels of the roof must be replaced, but consultants are analyzing samples to see if even more must be swapped out.
The dome typically hosts hundreds of college baseball games in early spring. About 300 games were scheduled for February and March.
The Jimmies were scheduled to play back-to-back doubleheaders against Minnesota-Crookston and St. Cloud State Feb. 27 and 28, but Hager is already actively searching for alternatives.
"We have already made phone calls to other teams in other parts of the country to see if we can patch up our schedule," he said. "Right now we're looking at Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri to find replacements for the four games we lost."
The yearly trip to the Metrodome has been a boon for the Jimmies in many ways.
It gets them out of the Larsen Center. It gives kids a chance to play in a pro facility. The draw of playing in the dome is a carrot in recruiting. And, most importantly, no matter how much snow was on the ground, it was guaranteed games, at least, until this year.
"Those games were very important to us in a lot of ways," Hager said. "It breaks up the monotony of spring practice, and it gives us a chance to look at what we got before we go to Florida.
"We hope we can continue our relationship with the dome in the future, but for this year, we're going to have to scramble to find somewhere else to play."
The games at the dome have also been a nice springboard for the Jimmies, who are 5-1 at the Minnesota Twins' old home the last two seasons.
"I'm not really sure why, but we've played really well there through the years," Hager said. "Our players have always looked forward to playing there."
Regardless of where the Jimmies end up starting the season, things look good on paper once again.
The Jimmies won 40 games last season, advancing to the NAIA National Tournament.
DAC Pitcher of the Year Alex Kreis (6-0, 3.14 ERA, 63 innings) is back for his senior season. Five other all-DAC performers return, including slugging outfielders Max Boe (.448 avg., 5 HR, 39 RBIs) and Jesse Ramirez (17 HR, 56 RBIs).
Kreis, Boe and Ramirez were cited by the Collegiate Baseball Newspapers as Players to Watch in the NAIA.
The Jimmies also return all-conference honorees in second baseman Keith Woelber (.340 avg., 9 HR, 54 RBIs), catcher Griffin Sweazey (.357 avg., 9 HR, 43 RBIs) and relief pitcher Chad Boldt (5-1, 7 saves, 3.99 ERA, 38 1/3 IP).
"The next two months are crucial in a team's development," Hager said. "We're anxious to step on the field as soon as we can. I like the team we got."
Sun sports editor Dave Selvig can be reached at (701) 952-8460 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org