Spring beckons athletes to play outdoors


When the Manhattan College Lady Jaspers women’s lacrosse team began its 2013 schedule, New York City was in the midst of its brutal winter. The players were already practicing when the calendar changed for the New Year and by February, they were playing games in Gaelic Park’s blustery bowl. 

By the time the team played its second game of spring on March 29, at home against Fresno State, a Lady Jasper reflected on how the gentler season was a reward for toughing it out through winter. 

“In the spring you feel faster,” said Christina Fiorinelli, Manhattan’s goalie. “Everything feels smoother. Passes flow more.”

Though spring is just unfolding, athletes  — both serious and casual — are savoring warmer and longer days and gentler winds. 

Andrew Mutnick, a Riverdale resident, was playing tennis with his son Ezra on a recent afternoon on the courts at Seton Park. 

“It’s like the feeling of coming out of hibernation, of just being outside again,” said the senior Mutnick. 

He said that this spring was particularly appreciated after the treacherous winter that included superstorm Sandy. 

Ezra said that playing tennis in the spring is a fresher feeling than playing in the summer.

“You don’t feel as weighted down and overheated as you do in the summer sometimes,” he said.

Remi Kumar was playing on another Seton court with his father’s friend Robert Mitchell. Remi, a student at the Bronx High School of Science, said that playing indoors is “pretty different,” from playing in the sunlight of spring. 

“The wind can affect your shots a lot,” he said. “So can the sun and the heat and the shadows.”  

As for Remi’s partner, Mitchell, he said there is only one reason he prefers to play the game outdoors. 

“It saves money,” he said, referring to the fees players generally pay at indoor clubs. “That’s the only reason.”  

For tennis partners Ron Weiss and Dinesh Kunder, spring play offers a multitude of nature’s most pleasant aesthetics, without a profusion of people. 

“Later in the season it gets too crowded,” said Weiss, “especially on mornings and weekends.”

Kunder said that it is not unusual to wait a couple of hours for a court, in the period from the beginning of April through October. 

At nearby Spuyten Duyvil Playground, Shariff Rodriguez, Malcolm Harper and their buddies were enjoying a mid-afternoon game of pickup basketball. 

“It is warmer than it has been in weeks,” said Rodriguez. “Being outside and feeling that breeze is a great feeling.”

Harper said that the warmer weather “brings out the better players so there is more competition.”

The outside courts, he said, also improve the players’ skill levels.

“The courts all have double rims so that players cannot pull them down on a dunk,” said Harper. 

The rigidity of these rims also requires players’ shots to be more exacting, he said. 

The weather is iffy when it comes to playing sports in the early spring. While midday is often idyllic, early mornings and late afternoons can still bring rain or a chill. 

This explains the varied lines in front of the Mister Softee trucks that have begun to sing their songs in local neighborhoods. 

“How’s business?” a reporter asked one of the truck drivers on a recent afternoon. “So-so,” he said. “It’s still early.”