- Associated Press - Thursday, March 31, 2011

With a hot beverage cup in both hands and a white parka pulled over her hooded sweat shirt, Marie Denissen was more than happy to be at Nationals Park.

Chilly weather? No worries. Heck, it was opening day.

“It’s still great,” said Denissen, from Highland, Md., during Thursday’s game between the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals. “You just have to have coffee instead of beer.”

Pretty much the sentiment all across the majors. Get out your mitts _ and mittens _ and let’s play ball.

Chipper Jones was ready, even though it was 41 degrees and damp in Washington. The ol’ pro got the first hit of the 2011 season with a double, and later scored the first run as Atlanta won 2-0 before a non-sellout crowd.

At Yankee Stadium, there was a box of winter hats for players in the New York clubhouse. It was 42 degrees and misty for the first-ever March game in the Bronx.

Rapper Jay-Z bundled up with his version of a “ballparka” _ hoodie and coat _ and there were pockets of empty seats as the Detroit Tigers took on the Yankees. Derek Jeter blew on his hands in the batter’s box, even though he already had batting gloves.

The concession stand that seemed to be doing the best business at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City was Sheridan’s hot chocolate. Fans bundled against the chill, lined up five-deep, before the Royals hosted the Los Angeles Angels.

Mark Allred, a retired electrician from Kansas City, Mo., sat on the first-base side about 15 rows from the field. The forecast called for highs around 50, with a 50 percent chance of rain and light winds.

“It’s too bad we don’t have a nice day for this. It’s always such an exciting time,” Allred said. “Fans like me have been looking forward to baseball all the long winter and now it still feels like winter. But I don’t really care. Bring on the first pitch!”

It was 41 degrees for the first pitch at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati _ better than the previous day, when the Milwaukee Brewers and Reds worked out in the snow.

Reds pitcher Edinson Volquez warmed up wearing a red-hooded sweat shirt and players took batting practice in stocking caps.

Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker said the trick for players was to ignore the temperature as much as possible.

“It’s all mental,” Baker said. “Sometimes it really is cold. You’ve got to fool yourself.”

The Brewers didn’t seem to mind. Rickie Weeks and Carlos Gomez led off Milwaukee’s season with home runs, the first time a team had done that since 1969, when Pete Rose and Bobby Tolan did it for the Reds. Rose, in fact, was at the Brewers-Reds game.

Story Continues →