Cold conditions don't dampen Opening Day excitement
CHICAGO -- Billy Butler ambled through the Royals' clubhouse before Monday's opener with a baseball undershirt in his hand.
"Do you have any sweatshirts that are thicker than this?" he asked a clubhouse attendant.
That seemed to be the Opening Day theme for the cold mid-afternoon inaugural contest at U.S. Cellular Field. Ski caps, hoodies and long johns were the order of the day. Ah, good ol' batting gloves.
"The cold weather's good -- I ain't kiddin' ya, man" manager Ned Yost said. "Back in the days when we were competing for championships every year in Atlanta and in Milwaukee, when it started to get cold it just signaled something inside of you: 'Hey, it's getting that time.'
"We're out of the hot weather, into the cold weather where it's that change in your body that says, 'Hey, it's for real now.' That's what it does -- it changes your approach, subconsciously."
The sun was out and the game-time temperature was 44 degrees. Is such weather harder on the hitters or the pitchers?
"I think it's tough for both guys. Pitchers, it's tough to get a good grip and hitters, it's tough to keep those hands warm," first baseman Eric Hosmer said. "So it's probably about the same for each."
And, yes, the bat might sting the hands a bit.
"If you hit a certain spot, maybe get jammed or something, it'll sting a little longer than a normal summer day, but most of us have played in the Midwest, in the Minor Leagues and opened up there, so we have a pretty good idea of what it's like," Hosmer said.
"I think the pitchers do have the advantage," pitcher Bruce Chen said, "because once we get warmed up, we stay warm. It doesn't bother us or affect us as much. But the hitters are out there in the cold, they come back in and they have to hit and the hands are cold and they're not moving as good. Now, if you make bad pitches, everyone will get you but everything being equal and everyone being ready, I think pitchers have the advantage."
Right fielder Jeff Francoeur says players largely disregard the elements.
"We've all played in it. Last year, we were lucky and got to play in L.A. and it was 72 and this year we're playing in cold weather," Francoeur said. "But when you get out there and the juices get flowing, sure it's a little cold, your hands are cold but we've got the heaters in the dugout and you're going to be so amped up, who cares?"
And, as all quickly pointed out, the White Sox were playing in the same conditions.
"It's always fun, Opening Day is a blast," Francoeur said. "I always tell people: If you win or lose on Opening Day, it's not the end of the year. It doesn't mean the Rangers aren't going to make the playoffs because they lost [Sunday] night, but it's always fun just to get the regular season going and get some regular season at-bats."