|Snow doubt: Indians finally open at home|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 13 April 2007 12:57|
It was the sun.
``I was surprised, man,'' Sabathia said. ``I forgot that it shined. I forgot that it came out here.''
Welcome home, Indians. And welcome to Opening Day at Jacobs Field - Take 2, 3, 4 and 5.
After a strange week that included blinding April snow showers, four days of weather-induced postponements and a hastily arranged ``home'' series played in a National League ballpark in Wisconsin, Cleveland got to play its opener at Jacobs Field on Friday night against the Chicago White Sox.
At last, Mother Nature stopped throwing curveballs, er, snowballs at the Indians.
There was no snow in the immediate forecast - some could be coming Saturday night and Sunday - only strong winds and temperatures in the mid-30s for the Indians, who earlier this week called Milwaukee their temporary home for a three-game series against the Los Angeles Angels.
A week ago, Cleveland's first attempt at playing its first home game against Seattle was postponed in the fifth inning following several lengthy delays in blizzard-like conditions. Doubleheaders that were rescheduled for Saturday, Sunday and Monday were all whitewashed because of a freakish spring storm that dumped nearly two feet of snow in the region.
The missed games prompted Major League Baseball to move Cleveland's series against Los Angeles to Miller Park in Milwaukee, now famous for its beer, bratwurst and baseball played under a retractable roof.
``It was great to get some games in,'' Indians outfielder Grady Sizemore said, ``and it's going to be even better to get some in at home.''
Four hours before Friday's scheduled first pitch, members of Cleveland's grounds crew worked in cloudless conditions as they watered down the infield dirt in preparation for the oft-delayed opener.
The scene was a very different a week ago, when the maintenance unit - and a few volunteers - armed with leaf blowers, shovels and brooms, tried in vain to combat lake effect snows that turned the Jake into a winter wonderland.
Head groundskeeper Brandon Koehnke threw out his back trying to keep up with the snow, but there would be no trip to the disabled list as he and his crew of 40 to 50 had to have the field ready for the Indians' return from Milwaukee.
Koehnke said the field was cleared off eight different times from last Thursday through Monday, and he estimated more than 33 inches of snow accumulated on the infield tarp, outfield grass and track.
``The tarp is like Swiss cheese right now,'' said Koehnke, adding the warning track was the most damaged area and needed repair.
During last Friday's delays, which totaled 173 minutes, Indians second baseman Josh Barfield watched in awe as Cleveland's grounds crew worked nearly nonstop to keep the teams on the field.
``I felt terrible for them,'' he said. ``Those guys don't get paid enough. They kept fixing the field, getting it ready, and when they did, it was almost for nothing. We're definitely getting our money's worth out of them.''
Although the forecast looked promising for Friday, the chance of nasty weather returning prompted the Indians to move up the starting time for Saturday's game by six hours. Instead of a 7:05 p.m. first pitch, the Indians and White Sox will play at 1:05 p.m. - weather permitting.
No strangers to cold weather, the White Sox arrived in Cleveland on Wednesday night after playing that day in California, where it was sunny and in the 60s. But before batting practice on Friday, Chicago's players bundled up in hooded sweat shirts and stocking caps to fight the bitter chill off Lake Erie.
``What's it like outside?'' manager Ozzie Guillen asked while sitting in his office.
``It's nice,'' he was told.
``What is it, 32 degrees?'' he said. ``I've been in my hotel room since we got here. Usually I like to walk around the city and see what's going on but I wasn't doing that here. I just stayed in my room.''
Guillen recalled coming to Cleveland as a fan in 1995 to watch a playoff game.
``I left in the third inning,'' he said. ``It was just too cold. I tried to hide somewhere in the ballpark, but that didn't work. I told my wife, 'We've got to get out of here.'''
Across the diamond, Indians manager Eric Wedge broke out his sunglasses for the first time since leaving Florida a few weeks ago.
``They're still messed up from spring training,'' Wedge said. ``There's sweat and suntan lotion I had to rub off.''
Barfield, in his first season with Cleveland after being traded here from San Diego, said he was relieved to wake up Friday and see sunshine.
``I was so scared when I looked out the window that there was going to be snow,'' he said. ``It's nice now, and that's all you can ask for.''