Major Leagues: Expect cold, snow on Opening Day
By Ben Walker
Grab the parka, ski cap, mittens and galoshes. It’s time for baseball.
From Dodger Stadium to Yankee Stadium, there was a flurry of activity as teams got ready for opening day. At Great American Ball Park, meanwhile, actual flurries.
Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder and the Milwaukee Brewers worked out as snow flakes fell Wednesday, a day before they were to play Cincinnati. The conditions were better suited for snowballs than baseballs, too, when the Reds later took the field.
“I love it. I love the weather,” Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips deadpanned. “The weather is beautiful.”
The forecast for the six openers Thursday wasn’t much better, either. Rain with temperatures in the 40s in Washington, New York and Kansas City, downright chilly in Cincinnati.
“If you’re playing golf and it’s 33 and windy, you take it into the clubhouse and play cards. Unfortunately we have to keep playing,” Yankees star Mark Teixeira said, set to face Detroit in the Bronx’s first March game. “It’s not easy playing in the cold but the good thing is both teams have to do it.”
Said Tigers catcher Alex Avila: “It’s going to be perfect weather, 40s and rain. A good day to pitch.”
At Nationals Park, Washington players came out to practice in red-hooded sweat shirts. Their workout ended in the rain when the grounds crew pulled out the tarp, and no telling if it’ll be any better for Thursday’s game against Atlanta.
“We’ll show up ready to play. And if we don’t, we’ll play Friday. We have that off-day leeway, so that’s smart,” Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. “We knew it was going to be a little chilly — coming from Florida, we won’t be used to it. But we’ll be so excited to play, I don’t think it’ll matter.”
Sure is a change from last year. There wasn’t a single rainout or snowout for more than 21/2 weeks, the longest any season had gone from the start without a weather postponement in 25 years.
Either way, quite a change from the sunny spring training fields in Arizona and Florida.
“We came in from like 90 degrees. We flew back last night and there’s snow today. It’s kind of different,” said Edinson Volquez, the opening day starter for Cincinnati.
Leave it to LA to provide the perfect setting. Two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum, Rookie of the Year Buster Posey and the World Series champion San Francisco Giants open at Dodger Stadium, where it’s supposed to be sunny and near 80 degrees.
Plus the Giants-Dodgers rivalry, right from the get-go.
“It’s going to be a little fire,” Giants center fielder Andres Torres said. “That’s part of it.”
So are familiar faces in new places. Angels outfielder Vernon Wells, Tigers slugger Victor Martinez, Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth and Braves second baseman Dan Uggla are among the stars set to make their debuts.
Old pros Chipper Jones, back from a knee injury that almost finished his career, and Derek Jeter, coming off a down year, also get fresh starts.
“There’s a twinkle in his eye, there’s something there,” new Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said about Jones. “Maybe it’s getting a taste of the playoffs and a chance we can do it again this year.”
Also part of the scene: Mike Mussina and Jim Edmonds, throwing out ceremonial first balls. Mussina will do it at Yankee Stadium, Edmonds gets the honor in St. Louis before the Cardinals host San Diego.
At Kauffman Stadium, where the Royals host the Los Angeles Angels, and other ballparks there will be a collection for the relief efforts in Japan after the earthquake and tsunami.
Stadium workers in Kansas City bundled up against the cold as they got logos, banners and signs ready for the opener. Despite the daunting forecasts, there’s always a lot of anticipation.
“Even after all these years, there are still butterflies. Heck, yeah,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “No matter how long you do this. If you still have the same joy as you did as a kid, you remember the opening day Little League parade. I do. It’s the best game.”