A chill in the air on Pirates' Opening Day

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After a gray morning of whirling snow, the scowling skies over Pittsburgh broke into a modest grin of sunshine shortly before noon -- just enough for the start of the 2013 baseball season at PNC Park.

First pitch: 1:41 p.m. Temperature: 41 degrees. First batter faced by Pirates starting pitcher A.J. Burnett: the Cubs' David DeJesus struck out.

Of course, the next batter, Starlin Casto, ripped a single and then Anthony Rizzo homered for a 2-0 Cubs lead.

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Opening day at PNC Park brings out fan optimism despite a 20-year track record of losing. (Video by Nate Guidry; 4/1/2013)

Opening Day ceremonies -- the introduction of the ballplayers, a moment of silence for former Pirates who passed away and the victims of the Newtown shootings in Connecticut, a salute to military veterans -- were conducted as scheduled before what had to be a disappointing turnout, clearly affected by the cold.

Still, those who did come to the ballpark were treated to the traditional rebirth of spring on green grass under a mostly blue sky, and as gametime approached the seats began to fill.

Chris Pleibel, 44, of Perkasie in Bucks County, got up at 5 a.m. to make the trip across the state for today's game. Mr. Pleibel is part of a group of 60 workers in the wireless industry attending the game as a social event.

"Some years we do it in Philadelphia, and some days we come here to Pittsburgh," he said. "We spread it around."

He said the cold "doesn't faze us." They love baseball.

Which pretty much summed up the coda for everyone in attendance.

"We usually have about 30 or so for our tailgate, but it's a little sparse this year," said Randy Turin, 48, a bar manager from Greensburg, who has attended at least a dozen opening days.

"Some of us actually get hotel rooms now," he said, gesturing to the relatively new buildings that have usurped so much of what used to be prime tailgate property. "We get older. So now some of our group are sitting up there. They come down for something to eat and get a beer, but then they go back up and get warm. They're doing shifts.

"It's very nice. And the hotel is a lot better to go to than the port-a-potties."

Luke Mary and Garrett Miller, 13-year-olds from Peters, were able to attend because it was a day off school. It wasn't their first Opening Day.

"I don't mind the cold. It's still fun to watch," Luke said. "I love baseball.

Said Garrett: "the atmosphere and the feeling" of the day make it special.

"Besides, my mom made me dress nice and warm," he said. "She made sure I wouldn't be cold."

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Dan Majors: dmajors@post-gazette.com. This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to: http://press.post-gazette.com/ First Published April 1, 2013 7:45 PM


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