MINNEAPOLIS – It was a balmy 17 degrees when the Mariners landed in the very early hours of the morning Thursday in Minnesota. Game-time temperature for the Twins’ home opener at 1:10 p.m. Pacific is forecast to be 36 degrees dropping to 31.
The opener is forecast to be the warm game of the three-game series, which will be interrupted by an off day Friday when temps could dip into the single digits. As of Thursday morning the low forecast for Saturday was 12 degrees, which would easily make Game 2 the coldest game on record ever played in MLB.
The weather was not an issue manager Scott Servais wanted to discuss while the Mariners were in San Francisco. The focus each day was the game at hand and the upcoming weather would be dealt with when it needed to be dealt with. That doesn’t mean there were not advanced preparations made for the conditions.
For starters, Thursday’s pitcher, James Paxton, was sent ahead as has been the tradition when the Mariners face an early morning arrival with a game that same day. Paxton left AT&T Park about two hours before the Mariners’ game Wednesday against the Giants and arrived in Minnesota well before his teammates. He should be well-rested if not completely acclimated to the arctic conditions.
“I don’t remember pitching in the 30s or anything like that,” Paxton said when asked about the coldest game he had ever played in.
The Big Maple may be Canadian, but his hometown of Ladner, British Columbia is much more similar in climate to Seattle than Calgary. Still, he is game for whatever the Minnesota still-winter brings.
“I will be able to stay warm in between innings,” he said. “When I am out there pitching I will be fine because I will be moving around staying warm. I can go inside in between, put on the jacket.”
Paxton will want to keep things moving quick – both to stay warm and help his position players, who won’t be able to move around as much. All players will have access to extra gear with equipment manager Ryan Stiles saying he brought three extra cases of cold weather gear on the trip, weighing 300-400 pounds.
There are stocking caps, ski masks, jackets, Nike Hyper-Warm long sleeves, shirts and pants, extra socks, hand warmers and of course jackets for all players and staff. For the hitters, who no doubt will dread the inside pitch that could jam them and make their frozen hands sting, cold weather batting gloves have been provided by Franklin.
It will be extreme, but the Mariners should be as prepared as they possibly could be. At the end of the day, according to Paxton, it’s mind over matter.
“Everyone is playing in the same conditions,” he said. “Don’t go out there and make excuses. It is what it is. Go get ’em.”