- - Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Carol Bruno sat behind section 314 wearing a red Nationals jacket, blue jeans and red tennis shoes with the logo of her favorite baseball team.

It was nearly an hour before the first pitch at Nationals Park on Tuesday, and Bruno had braved 40-degree weather to see the Nationals, back in Washington after weeks of spring training in Florida, face the Minnesota Twins in a late afternoon game.

“I came down from Maryland on the Metro,” said Montgomery Village resident Bruno, wearing three layers over much of her body. “I grew up in Cleveland. This is how we dressed for baseball in April.”

The exhibition game was officially the last “spring training” contest of the year for the Nationals, who have won the past two National League East titles and are favorites once again.

But the weather certainly didn’t feel like spring, with the temperature at 46 when Gio Gonzalez threw the first pitch at 4:08 p.m. That was about 30 degrees colder than when the Nationals played their last spring training game in Florida on Sunday.

“It is a shock for everyone. I don’t think anyone likes cold weather,” said Gonzalez, who grew up in the Miami area. “It is really cold, really cold.”

“Shock is a great word,” said Twins second baseman Brian Dozier.

Bruno, a partial season ticket holder since 2007, attended three spring training games in West Palm Beach earlier this month.

She has gone to spring training for several years and noticed a difference this season under Dave Martinez, in his first season as the Nationals manager.

“His positioning of players (on defense). He did a lot more shifting of players, more than standard. That was one thing I noticed,” said Bruno, who is retired from Marriott.

Another fan who came early Tuesday was Marion Cerfass, who has been attending games since 2012.

“I just wanted to see the guys,” said Cerfass, taking a walk on the concourse behind home plate.

Cerfass is a fan of outfielder Adam Eaton since they both went to college at Miami of Ohio. She is also a fan of Anthony Rendon, who started at third base for the Nationals on Tuesday.

“He is humble, and talented,” said Cerfass, wearing a Nationals sweatshirt.

Despite his blue jacket, gloves and hat, D.C. resident John Sammis, 61, headed for the exit in the top of the sixth due to the cold. “I am retired so I have the time” for games, said Sammis.

The Nationals will travel to Ohio on Wednesday and start the season Thursday against the Cincinnati Reds. It will be the earliest Opening Day game in Nationals history, which began in Washington in 2005. Washington will play its first home game on April 5 at Nationals Park against the New York Mets.

So that meant Tuesday’s 3-1 loss to the Twins was the only chance to catch the Nationals at home before they begin the season on the road in Cincinnati and then Atlanta, against the Braves.

Tuesday was the first chance for fans to see the team at Nationals Park since last October, when the team lost Game 5 to the Chicago Cubs in the National League Division Series.

Gonzalez, who has been with the Nationals since 2012, allowed one hit and no runs in three innings before he was replaced by lefty Matt Grace.

It was the last exhibition outing for Gonzalez, who will be part of the Nationals’ rotation.

“Start thinking warm thoughts,” he said. “Hopefully we can get through the cold weather.”

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