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Monday, April 1, 2013
Tigers, Twins off to frosty start at Target Field

Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- The sun was shining brightly above the ballpark, as the Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins took their places along the green grass for pregame introductions.

This was a picture-perfect opening day, except of course for that pesky 35-degree, first-pitch temperature and 17 mph wind.

"It's a little bit cold, but we're willing to risk it," said fan John Felipe, who wore three layers of clothing to Target Field. "We're Minnesotans. We're used to the cold."

The hot chocolate line was more than 12 deep on Monday afternoon shortly before the 2013 season began. Beer vendors weren't quite as busy. But, hey, it's baseball. Sitting outside in stocking hats, gloves and winter coats sure beat staying at work for the announced crowd of 38,282, officially a sellout by Twins guidelines.

"I was hemming and hawing and then I went out on StubHub on Friday and went for the single ticket," said another fan, Nick Kochevar. "You couldn't get my wife out here in this, so I figure I had to come by myself."

This was the first time in four years at the downtown ballpark, which replaced the Metrodome as their home stadium, that the Twins played their opener in Minnesota. The previous temperatures for their first home games were 45, 63 and 65 degrees.

For the players, this was a tough transition from nearly two months of spring training in balmy Florida. But while everybody was bundling up for the afternoon, none of them seemed to mind much.

Twins catcher Joe Mauer grew up here, after all. He recalled high school games being snowed out. He also played in Class A in 2002 for Quad Cities, when he remembered catching all 17 innings during a chilly opening night contest along the Mississippi River in Davenport, Iowa.

"There's nothing we can change about it," Mauer said. "We just have to go out there and play the game."

First baseman Justin Morneau predicted the team that whines the least about the weather would have the best chance to win. He joked that he'd "put hot sauce all over and throw some long sleeves on and some long johns" to fend off the frost.

New Tigers right fielder Torii Hunter, whose nine seasons with the Twins were in the climate-controlled dome, recalled the coldest game he ever experienced. That was his rookie year at Detroit's Tiger Stadium in 1999. The temperature that day was 44 degrees, with a 13 mph wind.

"You put Vaseline on your legs and your arms. That's the secret nobody really knows about," Hunter said. "Put lots of Vaseline on to close your pores up and then you put your sleeves on and put on two pair of underwear."

There's no game scheduled for Tuesday, so everyone can thaw a bit before returning on Wednesday, when the forecast has the temperature at closer to 50 degrees.

"Personally, I'm going to go buy a sweater tomorrow," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "I packed one, but I've worn it a couple times already."

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Associated Press freelance writer Mike Cook contributed to this report.

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