STAMFORD — What a difference a year makes.

This time last year, most baseball fields in Connecticut were still buried under snow and the ones that had been cleared were too saturated to play on.

This year with no snow and warm, sunny days, every team FCIAC has been practicing outside.

The practice outside is not just nice because of the weather, it gives players more repetitions in the field, putting them in situations they will see when games begin at the end of this week as opposed to just hitting and throwing in a school gym.

Tuesday night at Bobby Valentine’s Sports Academy in Stamford FCIAC baseball coaches and captains gathered for pizza, batting cage contests and talk of the season ahead at the annual Ruden Report Media Night.

Everyone seemed to agree time on the field has made a huge difference.

“The spring has been great and being able to start on a Saturday this year really helped us,” McMahon coach John Cross said. “The weather has been better. When you have a senior-dominated team you might be OK because guys know what they are doing but when you have a young team you need to be on the field practicing a lot.”

Darien, which has the only artificial turf field in the FCIAC, has benefited from more time outdoors in the preseason the last few years and raced out to fast starts in part because of it.

This year, everyone seems to be on even ground with more dry weather in the forecast this week ahead of opening day on Saturday.

The weather was even spring-like in early March meaning kids could go out and play before formal practices began.

“The kids have taken advantage of the no snow and have been out working on their own,” Darien coach Mike Scott said. “I wasn’t able to work with them but leaving school every day I saw 20 or 30 guys out there taking advantage of the nice weather.”

The extra time on the field is much appreciated as FCIAC baseball is notoriously the most balanced sport in the FCIAC with quality teams top to bottom.

This year, the schedule is even more brutal than normal with Harding and Bassick leaving the league.

Those teams did not put competitive baseball teams on the field and with their departure teams will now be facing quality opponents every game when league play begins.

That will put an emphasis not only on pitching but the depth of rotations and having multiple live arms off the bench.

“It’s extremely tough,” Westhill coach DJ Mulvany said. “Every game you are going up against a good pitcher and so many teams have one or two aces especially teams like Staples and Warde. You have to have pitching depth and you need a couple guys who when your starter does not have his best stuff can come in and bridge the gap. It’s tough.”; @EricsonSports