DENVER (AP) — Dick Monfort was quite formidable on the mound — of snow, that is.
Shovel in hand, the Colorado Rockies owner joined a crew of team employees helping to dig out snow-covered Coors Field, clearing the way for the Rockies and New York Mets to finally play ball.
This is one assignment that didn't give him cold feet, just a sore back.
Well worth it, though, to try and squeeze in a doubleheader against the New York Mets on Tuesday. Although the game started at 5:10 p.m. EDT, first pitch had been pushed back two hours to finish clearing the field. At the scheduled game time, there were still piles of snow in front of the Rockies dugout and along the right-field line.
Now, there's hardly a trace of snow around.
Monfort had plenty of company removing the snow, as vice president Bill Geivett — wearing a heavy Montreal Expos jacket — and chief baseball officer Dan O'Dowd also scooped snow off the turf as well.
Even Sandy Alderson, the GM for the Mets, pitched in on a bank of snow near the team's dugout.
"It looks like they want to see a game today," Monfort said.
Especially the Mets, who haven't played since Saturday after having two straight games wiped out by weather. Wintry conditions in Minneapolis on Sunday forced the game against the Twins to be called off. The game Monday also was postponed due to a heavy spring snow storm passing through the area.
"We're pretty tired of sitting at the hotel," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "Everybody wants to get going. This is what they're here for — to go out and play. To have two days in a row off is unheard of."
Not that the players are overly thrilled about playing in chilly conditions.
And it definitely will be frigid.
The temperature at first pitch 39 degrees, tying for the 10th coldest game in the Mile High City. The record is 28 degrees on April 12, 1997, against Montreal. The second contest of the doubleheader — scheduled to start 30 minutes after conclusion of Game 1 — will see the temperature dip even lower, maybe even with a little bit of snow mixed in.
"In general terms, the game wasn't made to be played in conditions like this," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "It's such a game of feel. It's tough to execute certain aspects of the game in cold weather. That will be a challenge."
The real challenge was getting the field playable.
When Monfort showed up in the morning, he had his reservations. But team employees kept showing up on the field to offer their help. The Rockies even borrowed shovels from the Denver Broncos, giving them 75 to share.
"For a while there, you had to hold onto your shovel or you lost your shovel and then you don't have a shovel," Monfort said. "Then you were no good anymore. That's what basically ended up happening to me. That and the fact I was running out of gas."
Not to mention getting sore.
"But not as sore as I'm going to be, I'm sure," Monfort said.
The team didn't clear out the upper deck of the stadium, allowing fans to roam down into the lower levels. There were just a smattering of fans in attendance for the day game, many bundled up in gear usually seen in the mountains.
The infield wasn't wet at all — the tarp kept it dry overnight — but the outfield was soggy and the warning track slippery.
"Probably no different than if you play in a game and it rains on and off," Monfort explained. "Our field drains well."
Jonathan Herrera wore a ski mask to keep warm in the field, while starters Dillon Gee and Juan Nicasio blew on their hands in between pitches.
Justin Turner had a plan to stay warm — keep near the heaters in the dugout. Being from Long Beach, Calif., he's not used to this weather.
Although, he has the shaggy beard for it.
"I intentionally didn't shave all spring training because I knew this first road trip was going to be pretty cold," Turner said, laughing. "I don't mind the cold. I just don't like playing baseball in it."
He still painfully remembers playing in the snow during a Single-A game in 2007.
"I got hit in the elbow and felt like it was shattered into a million pieces," Turner said. "You just layer up and use hot packs, put them in your back pocket. The worst part is coming in and sitting in the dugout where the heaters are and then having to go back out where it's freezing. You've just got to keep moving."
The weather on Wednesday could be worse, with more snow expected.
Not that the starter that day, Jon Garland, minds too much.
"I'll pitch anywhere if I'm getting outs," said Garland, who's finding his form after missing all of last year following shoulder surgery. "This weather is not comfortable by any means. For the most part, you're out there miserable. It's not fun at all."
Simply wear more clothing?
"You don't want to go out of the norm to where it's comfortable for you to get that range of motion, get that fluid pitching," Garland said. "But yeah, you try to layer up as much as you can."