Spring Weather Tour – Northwest League
In an earlier article, I looked at the benefits of “missing out” on chilly April weather (and in turn enjoying games into mild September) in the northeast United States for a 2021 baseball season delayed by pandemic realities. I gave weather details from last year when there was no spring baseball — using the April 2020 weather pattern. With the long-awaited release of schedules, and all except MLB, AAA, and college teams delaying the start of their seasons into May, it’s time to resume my “tour” of the minor leagues. This time we’ll go to the other coast where the newly- elevated teams of the High-A Northwest League are set to play the season with five teams based in Washington and Oregon, and a sixth team based across the border in Vancouver, BC. I should note that these teams were formerly part of a short-season league that did not start play until June. That means they customarily have missed out on the spring weather.
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April Weather Variations
Last spring showed that April weather in the Northeast US can be downright wintery, but the Pacific Northwest enjoys a more temperate spring climate. First, the average April temperature in Washington State is a couple degrees warmer than that of New York State. Layered on top of this natural advantage has been a string of mild Aprils. It has been a full ten years (back to 2011 as shown on the chart below) in which Washington State had a month of April that was more than one degree colder than the long-term average. Remember, New York has had three such cold Aprils just since 2015!
The six teams of the Northwest League are in a very homogeneous geography compared to the 15 teams in the (former) International League. April temperatures are seldom cold enough for snow at the lower elevations of the Pacific Northwest and April precipitation averages about 10% less in Washington State than in New York.
The Splendor of September
With games not starting until May, the 132-game class A season will stretch into at least the first half of September. Similar to the differential seen in the Northeast US, September temperatures in Washington State average 12 degrees warmer than those of April. By virtue of averaging a couple degrees cooler than New York in September, the Pacific Northwest would appear to retain a regional advantage at the back end of the season– less of a tendency for late-season heat waves compared to the Northeastern states. This moderating influence was not fully realized in the past ten years. In fact, during the past decade half the Septembers in Washington State were much warmer than normal. The very warmest Septembers (for instance 2020) have brought highs of 95 to 100 in the first week of the month at places like Pasco, WA, home of the Tri-City Dust Devils. It turns out that this may not have been too uncomfortable for evening baseball with the earlier sunsets of September. Especially helpful is the low humidity of the region allowing most nights to cool into the 40s and 50s. Early autumn weather is typically splendid in Washington and Oregon as normal rainfall in September is less than half of that seen in much of the Northeast US. Shifting the baseball season back a month might be particularly appealing in this part of the country.