It seemed like just a blustery day when Colorado Springs and Tucson took the field for their game Monday night in Colorado Springs. A 20-mph wind was blowing in as a pitcher's friend and the 67 degree gametime temperature took some of the chill out of the high winds.
By the end of the fifth inning, things had taken a dramatic turn for the worse and everyone on both teams, the umpires and the very few hearty fans still around were all just ready to go home.
In one of those "only in the minor leagues" moments, Monday's Tucson-Colorado Springs game was called after five innings because of wind. You wouldn't be able to tell from the score that the game was called early—Tucson won 14-3.
No one wanted to play the sixth inning. Not a drop of rain was falling and the field was still as dry as a bone, but when the umpires decided to call the game after five innings because of high winds, no one was going argue.
"Everyone on both sides were hoping we could go home," Tucson manager Pat Murphy said. "Wind chill being the way it was, I don’t think we could have lasted much longer. Our eye drops were depleted."
With the winds whipping dirt into everyone's eyes, Visine was a must. One of the umpires donned goggles to try to dodge the dirt. Easy fly balls turned into doubles. Pitcher Jorge Reyes lofted a check swing foul ball that got caught in the wind, took a left turn and landed behind the first baseman for a wind-blown single.
"I've never seen anything like it," Tucson's Cody Decker said. "The wind was crazy. If the ball was hit in the air it seemed like a guaranteed double, if not more."
When the game began, the wind was blowing in. For the first two innings, no one scored. But in the third what had been a 20-mph wind blowing in turned into straightline winds of 45 mph and more blowing out. The two teams combined to score 17 runs in the next three innings. Longtime major leaguer Aaron Cook saw the wind start to laugh at his sinker. Cook's line of 2 2/3 innings, five hits, six runs (all earned) and two walks doesn't exactly tell much of the story of how he actually pitched.
"The wind wouldn’t let it sink," Murphy said. "It was insane, but it was amazing the way the players kept their poise and had fun with it, the pitchers especially."
When the cold came, Murphy opted to bring Reyes, a former Oregon State ace, in relief of Keyvius Sampson because he figured that Reyes had some experience with cold and windy days at Oregon State. It worked, as Reyes somehow managed to allow only one run in 2 2/3 innings for a well-earned win.
A chill came with that wind as the temperature officially dropped 19 degrees in the span of one hour. With the high winds, the wind chill quickly dropped into the 20s.
Murphy was working as the third base coach when the wind shifted and the temperature plunged.
"I looked at (third baseman) Nolan Arenado, he looked at me and said, ‘Did the temperature just drop 20 degrees?' One gust and it was all of a sudden freezing," Murphy said.
The wind shift was a nightmare for pitchers, but it wasn't a whole lot more fun for the hitters. Sure if you got the ball in the air, it was going to likely land somewhere for a hit, but if you didn't square it up perfectly, the cold would make sure you felt it for long after you'd jogged to first base.
"It was so cold to swing. Kyle Blanks reached third base and told me, 'I still can’t feel my right hand,' Murphy said. "I don’t know if the tradeoff was all that good. Guys were still throwing the ball 90 mph; it didn’t feel real good unless you hit it right on the sweet spot," Murphy said.
The official attendance was 1,546, but there were closer to 50 people in the stands by the end of the game. It goes into the books as a five-inning game, but for anyone there, it felt like it lasted much longer.
And Tuesday’s game was postponed due to snow and cold temperatures. The teams will try to finish the series with a Wednesday game and Thursday doubleheader and will hope to beat the fast-changing weather with 11:05 a.m. local start times.