Mitt and mittens: Baseball off to a chilly start
With a hot beverage cup in both hands and a white parka pulled over her hooded sweat shirt, Marie Denissen was more than happy to be at Nationals Park.
Chilly weather? No worries. Heck, it was opening day.
''It's still great,'' said Denissen, from Highland, Md., during Thursday's game between the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals. ''You just have to have coffee instead of beer.''
Pretty much the sentiment all across the majors. Get out your mitts - and mittens - and let's play ball.
Chipper Jones was ready, even though it was 41 degrees and damp in Washington. The ol' pro got the first hit of the 2011 season with a double, and later scored the first run as Atlanta won 2-0 before a non-sellout crowd.
At Yankee Stadium, there was a box of winter hats for players in the New York clubhouse. It was 42 degrees and misty for the first-ever March game in the Bronx.
Rapper Jay-Z bundled up with his version of a ''ballparka'' - hoodie and coat - and there were pockets of empty seats as the Detroit Tigers took on the Yankees. Derek Jeter blew on his hands in the batter's box, even though he already had batting gloves.
The concession stand that seemed to be doing the best business at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City was Sheridan's hot chocolate. Fans bundled against the chill, lined up five-deep, before the Royals hosted the Los Angeles Angels.
Mark Allred, a retired electrician from Kansas City, Mo., sat on the first-base side about 15 rows from the field. The forecast called for highs around 50, with a 50 percent chance of rain and light winds.
''It's too bad we don't have a nice day for this. It's always such an exciting time,'' Allred said. ''Fans like me have been looking forward to baseball all the long winter and now it still feels like winter. But I don't really care. Bring on the first pitch!''
It was 41 degrees for the first pitch at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati - better than the previous day, when the Milwaukee Brewers and Reds worked out in the snow.
Reds pitcher Edinson Volquez warmed up wearing a red-hooded sweat shirt and players took batting practice in stocking caps.
Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker said the trick for players was to ignore the temperature as much as possible.
''It's all mental,'' Baker said. ''Sometimes it really is cold. You've got to fool yourself.''
The Brewers didn't seem to mind. Rickie Weeks and Carlos Gomez led off Milwaukee's season with home runs, the first time a team had done that since 1969, when Pete Rose and Bobby Tolan did it for the Reds. Rose, in fact, was at the Brewers-Reds game.
There were six openers Thursday, including games at St. Louis and Los Angeles.
No surprise, Dodger Stadium made for the most picturesque setting. It was sunny, with a gametime temperature of 85 as Tim Lincecum and the World Series champion San Francisco Giants played their old rivals.
''I'm definitely excited. If you're not nervous or antsy, something's wrong,'' said Don Mattingly, making his managerial debut with Los Angeles.
Baseball has tried in the past to avoid inclement conditions on opening day, occasionally beginning with most of the games on the West Coast and in the South, along with playing in places that had domes. That didn't satisfy everyone, though.
''You can't every year open up in Anaheim or LA or San Diego, or nobody would ever get the first game of the year. You've got to mix it up. I'm fine with that,'' said Padres manager Bud Black, whose team started Thursday in St. Louis.
Quite a change from the sun-baked fields of spring training in Arizona and Florida.
''Opening day, you don't feel the weather because you're too excited. Opening day hasn't been cold in the past,'' Royals designated hitter Billy Butler said. ''It's the next few days after that when it gets really cold. The weather changes daily this time of year. But adrenaline will keep you warm.''
The rest of the teams in the big leagues were scheduled to open on Friday. Everywhere, there were collection boxes set up at stadiums for donations to the relief efforts in Japan after the earthquake and tsunami.
At St. Louis, six Cardinals Hall of Famers were introduced during the annual parade lap around the warning track at Busch Stadium, including 90-year-old Stan Musial, honored with the Congressional Medal of Freedom earlier this year.
At Washington, it was drizzling during batting practice. Before the game, Nationals rookie reliever Brian Broderick tried on a red, covering-all-but-the-eyes ski mask, while nearby, a clubhouse attendant offered other players hand warmers.
In New York, wind ruffled the opening-day bunting and some fans moved up from box seats onto the concourses or under the overhangs for cover. Many wore gloves, while others stuffed their hands into their pockets.
Tim Hughes wore a 2009 World Series champions jacket, along with a sweat shirt and blue hood, as he waited in line for a hot chocolate. At 51, the fan from Easton, Pa., said he had been to 34 of the last 35 home openers at Yankee Stadium.
He was prepared for this one, too.
''Bundle up, two pairs of socks, sweat shirt, flannel undershirt, jacket, and I brought a blanket,'' he said.
''It's cold. It's very cold, yeah,'' he said. ''I love opening day, no matter what the weather. I just put extra layers on.''
AP Baseball Writer Joe Kay, AP Sports Writers Doug Tucker, Howard Fendrich, Mike Fitzpatrick, Howie Rumberg, R.B. Fallstrom and Beth Harris and AP freelance writer Rich Dubroff contributed to this report.