Weather gives RailCats opening-day hope

2013-05-16T23:45:00Z 2013-05-17T13:10:14Z Weather gives RailCats opening-day hopeBy Hillary Smith hillary.smith@nwi.com, (219) 933-3233 nwitimes.com

GARY | Mike Massaro can't remember the last time the opening-day weather was so beautiful at U.S. Steel Yard.

The temperature was announced at 68 degrees when RailCats starter Alain Quijano threw the first pitch at 7:11 on Thursday night against the Lincoln Saltdogs.

When the RailCats took the field for their 4:30 p.m. batting practice, the thermometer read a balmy 80.

"Coming off the couple spring training games we just played, one was kinda rainy, it just gets you excited to play. Opening day you're going to be up to play no matter what," said Massaro, who is in his fifth season with the club and started Thursday's game in right field.

"The beautiful weather puts it over the top."

The RailCats are 5-7 all time on opening days and 2-4 when they open at home. The only opening-day home win came in 2007 against Winnipeg and ended with a Northern League championship.

That day, the weather topped out at 49 degrees, comparable to most opening days before the RailCats joined the American Association in 2011.

Since joining the AA, the RailCats haven't opened the season colder than 81 degrees until Thursday.

"This beautiful weather is beautiful," Massaro said. "It's not the hot, hot that you get in July or the humidity that you get in other places. This is warmth that baseball is supposed to be played in. Either way you're excited to get the season started."

Manager Greg Tagert remembered 2008, the last time the RailCats opened at home this early in May and the team drove in a parade to celebrate the 2007 Northern League Championship.

The players spent more than an hour riding atop a fire truck and started the game with cold, tired muscles.

"That one we opened with the parade that year was bitter cold," Tagert said. "There are always some good memories of here on opening day.

"Every opening day is nice, but from a fan and front office perspective and I woke up this morning that this is exactly what you sign up for in baseball."

With the opening day festivities over, the team will settle into its daily routine beginning Friday of pitchers' bullpens, batting practice and arriving at the stadium.

"Get past (Thursday) and I've always found, not necessarily a letdown, but like the day after Christmas," Tagert said. "Day two of the season is the hardest day to win for every club because things settle back in that routine quickly and it amazes me how quickly things change the day after opening day. Players settle into that routine quickly and I think as you come to the ball park you're going to see that."

"You go back to business the same way, because the season is officially started," Massaro said. "The excitement of opening day is gone, and you start the season and are ready for the long haul start of the season in your mind. It's what you need to do to move forward for that long stretch of season to come."

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