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Forecast for MLB season? Rain and cold, so far

A bat boy looks the weather radar, right, during a rain delay before a baseball game between the New York Mets and the Atlanta Braves was eventually called due to weather on Friday, April 15, 2011, in Atlanta. A bat boy looks the weather radar, right, during a rain delay before a baseball game between the New York Mets and the Atlanta Braves was eventually called due to weather on Friday, April 15, 2011, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
By Ben Walker
AP Baseball Writer / April 18, 2011

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The Green Monster seats, great view. The concession stands that sell clam chowder and lobster rolls, always popular.

The hot spots at Fenway Park lately are the gift shops behind home plate and out beyond the Pesky Pole. Why? Because they're heated, giving Boston fans a brief respite from the wicked weather.

Makes sense to Red Sox center fielder Mike Cameron.

"Everything's cold out there. You have that wind. My face is freezing," he said.

"It's not so much getting loose," he said, pointing to his eyes, "it's seeing. You've got water running down. It's your extremities. Your eyes, noses, fingers, toes. That's probably the hardest thing. The things you need to play baseball."

Rain, chill and even a snowout at Coors Field, it's been rugged all across the majors. Nine games already postponed this year; none by the same point last season.

Six teams have drawn record-low crowds at their ballparks -- Cleveland, Atlanta, the New York Yankees, Seattle, St. Louis and Minnesota -- although poor conditions aren't always to blame.

Overall, attendance is virtually identical to last season, when opening day came several days earlier. Games are averaging 28,620, compared to 28,835 a year ago, STATS LLC said.

"If you are a big leaguer, it is your job and you deal with it," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "You strap it on, go and play. The show goes on."

Except when it doesn't.

Baltimore, Washington, Atlanta and the New York Mets have hosted doubleheaders, all caused by rainouts during an April that's been unseasonably wet and cold in many places, especially along the Eastern seaboard.

At Turner Field, the videoboard showed the weather radar, rather than stats or highlights. At Fenway Park, the protective screen at first blew over twice during batting practice.

At Camden Yards, Ian Kinsler and a half-dozen of Texas teammates took advantage of the showers and went sliding on the tarp. At Yankee Stadium, two nights were so miserable that fans were given free tickets.

The National Weather Service said precipitation in New York is up around 50 percent this April over normal. While the average temperature of about 51 degrees is par for the month, there have been several days much colder.

Yankees star Alex Rodriguez was out of the lineup Sunday night because of stiffness in his lower back and side. He had trouble getting loose the day before and left early.

"I mean, this weather is not the most conducive that we're playing in," manager Joe Girardi said.

At Progressive Field in Cleveland, Indians third base coach Steve Smith bundled up before Sunday's game against Baltimore.

The hood of his gray sweat shirt pulled over his red Indians cap, Smith quickly left the field after batting practice and found a warm spot on the top step of a flight of stairs leading into the team's dugout.

With the temperature hovering over 40 and winds gusting to 50 mph, this was not baseball weather.

"Look at me," said Smith, who went to school at Pepperdine and lives in California during the offseason. "I've got five thermals on, I look like a fullback and I'm still cold."

At Fenway, the wind chill temperatures were in the mid-30s on Friday and Saturday.

"It's definitely difficult to get going and to get comfortable at the plate and on defense," said Red Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who spent the previous five seasons playing in San Diego.

"You come in expecting the worst and getting ready for the worst. It's not surprising," he said. "It's one of things that even those guys that have been here for a number of years don't get used to it."

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said he often took the weather into account when he was guiding the Marlins.

"In Florida, that was a big issue. We carried a lot of times a 13-man pitching staff just because we planned on having a rain delay and losing a starter and now you've got to carry an extra guy," he said.

The Milwaukee Brewers have been rained out twice this year, in Pittsburgh and last weekend at Washington.

"I'm not used to it," said manager Ron Roenicke, a coach for the Los Angeles Angels the past 10 seasons. "Even though we travel half the time, when I was in Anaheim we were fortunate that we didn't have many doubleheaders."

Brewers slugger Ryan Braun quickly summed up the conditions for the series opener at Nationals Park. "It was freezing. It was cold. It was definitely cold," he said.

Girardi, meanwhile, looked forward to the Yankees' road trip this week. To Toronto, and a stadium with a dome.

"You feel like we're going to have pretty decent weather for two days -- indoors, I don't know about outdoors. But I mean that's kind of nice," he said. "We've played in some pretty cold weather during these first 13 games and I'm sure guys will enjoy wearing short sleeves for a change, where you can really understand why they're wearing them."

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AP Sports Writers Tom Withers, Mike Fitzpatrick and Charles Odum and AP freelance writers Ken Powtak, Rich Dubroff, Daimon Eklund and Chuck Murr contributed to this report.

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