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Mets-Rockies begin play after massive effort to clear field of snow
DENVER -- A network of heating coils wind beneath the playing surface here at Coors Field. Installed in 1995, they were designed to guard the Rockies against snow outs. But when the city was bombarded by a massive storm on Monday night, the heated coils melted only 2 inches of snow.
The rest had to be cleared away only through a massive effort before Tuesday's Mets-Rockies doubleheader, which began more than two hours late when conditions overwhelmed the workers tasked with preparing the stadium.
"[The coils] can't keep up with that amount," said Rockies owner Dick Monfort, who acknowledged that his organization was caught off guard by the massive snowfall. "It's good for a spring storm. It's not good for a dump -- 8 inches or 10 inches or whatever we got."
By the time the field was cleared for the Mets and Rockies, who entertained no more than about 1,500 frigid fans, Monfort himself found himself shoveling powder. Mets general manager Sandy Alderson joined him as well, with both teams frantically hoping to squeeze in a doubleheader.
Monday night's scheduled game had already been wiped out by snow and the Mets can hardly afford too many more missed dates.
So, the enormous clearing project began sometime before 8 a.m. By the time Monfort arrived at Coors Field, a few staffers had already started shoveling snow off the tarp covering the infield. However, it didn't take long for head groundskeeper Mark Razum to know that his crew alone would be overmatched.
The Rockies couldn't bring in heavy equipment for fear of tearing up the field. They were left to the monumental task with only shovels, sweat and few small John Deere tractors.
"I don't know how we're going to get this done," Razum told Monfort, when temperatures held steady in the mid-20s and a thick layer of powder blanketed the playing field.
Typically, the Rockies bring in temporary workers to help prepare the stadium. But Monfort said that many did not show up for work, choosing to avoid braving treacherous road conditions. Those who did come used snowblowers to clear seats section by section in the lower bowl of the stadium, all as icicles hung from the upper decks.
"I actually was just looking around... I was trying to come up with ideas on how to get this snow out of here, which were all crappy ideas," Monfort said. "And I just sort of just grabbed a shovel and the next thing you know it's like noon. So, that's the way it went. But we had everybody."
Monfort's army grew as team employees flocked to the field. People from all departments joined in the effort. Even Dinger, the purple dinosaur who serves as the Rockies' mascot, put in a shoveling shift while in full costume. Workers started in the infield before moving to leftfield and working their way around the ballpark.
With only a few hours left until the scheduled 1:10 p.m. first pitch, and only part of the field cleared out, Alderson grabbed a shovel. Indeed, the Mets had plenty of motivation to play the game.
"He came in and he was squeegee-ing around," Monfort said. "They've got an issue because they've got to make up that game with Minnesota and of course they don't go play Minnesota again and they don't play us again. So, he's as interested if not more interested than we are in getting as many of these in as possible."
The scheduled game time arrived and snow remained in the outfield and all throughout the warning track. Nevertheless, workers pressed on, an end in sight. It took more than six hours of work, a total of 75 shovels -- some borrowed from the Broncos -- and countless sore backs and knees.
But with about 45 minutes until the newly scheduled 3:10 p.m. start time, the last of the snow was removed on the warning track down the rightfield line. The conditions were hardly ideal but they were good enough to play.
However, the Mets and Rockies won't have much of a reprieve from poor weather. Forecasts are calling for 2 to 4 inches of snow on Wednesday night with a low temperature of 19 degrees, which leaves the teams staring at yet another likely snow out.
"We may have to think about how we're going to do it Thursday to get that game in too," Monfort said. "I'm sure we'll sit down and talk about some better ideas."