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Rockies adapt to wintry conditions

Rockies adapt to wintry conditions

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DENVER -- The weather outside was frightful and the snow was not so delightful for the Rockies' practice plans Sunday at Coors Field.

Denver awoke Sunday morning to snow on the ground, and the Rockies had to take their scheduled simulated game indoors and hit in the cage instead.

While Brian Fuentes took advantage of the snow with a headfirst dive on the snow-covered infield tarp, several Rockies had their minds on something other than baseball -- mostly watching Sunday football and ...

"Good hunting weather," Todd Helton said.

Helton and crew have to put their mid-October hunting plans on hold, as they've got a World Series to play.

Sunday could be a preview of the World Series games at Coors Field. An October snow is a regular occurrence in Denver.

However, the weather can change quickly in Denver, which it did Sunday. By 1 p.m. MT, the sun came out and the winter weather was on its way out. By 2 p.m., the snow had almost completely melted off the field thanks to the sunshine and a field warming system under Coors Field that warms the field to 60 degrees.

"The plan was to plow snow this afternoon, but Mother Nature helped us," Coors Field head groundskeeper Mark Razum said.

The field warming system is usually used in February to help warm the soil and get the grass green, but the Rockies' grounds crew fired up the system this week.

Razum said Sunday that if a game had been scheduled for Sunday night, the grounds crew could have had the field prepared by a 6 or 6:30 p.m. MT game time. The grounds crew also uses growth blankets overnight to keep the grass and turf from freezing.

That should not be problem this week. The weather.com forecast calls for temperatures to be back in the mid-70s by Wednesday.

After a chance of showers on Friday, the forecast for Saturday's Game 3 at Coors Field is partly cloudy with a high of 59 degrees during the day and an overnight low of 42. For Sunday's Game 4, weather.com forecasts it to be sunny in Denver with a high of 65 degrees and a low of 42, and sunny with a high of 66 and a low of 42 on Monday for Game 5.

"We don't play here for another week, and you know how the weather is here," forecaster Helton said. "It could be 80 degrees next week."

If the Rockies have to play in cold, snowy weather, it's nothing they're not used to. For many players who have come up through Triple-A Colorado Springs, that's the norm early in the season.

Rockies Ubaldo Jimenez, Ryan Speier, Matt Herges, Ryan Spilborghs, Jeff Baker, Seth Smith and Cory Sullivan all started the 2007 season with the Sky Sox.

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"The first month, the weather there was much worse, so this isn't going to bother us," Baker said. "The April weather there is so hit and miss. The field would be covered with snow, but they'd always get it cleared and we'd play ball in 32 degrees and in front of, like, 15 fans. And we didn't have the great grounds crew we've got here, or a great facility like this."

The Sky Sox's relievers, like Speier and Herges, spent the first month of the season huddled by a heater in the bullpen, and then would pitch a baseball that Herges said felt like throwing an ice cube.

Smith said the weather in Colorado Springs should help him be prepared for whatever weather they face in the World Series.

"It was pretty miserable at times," Smith said. "But it's the World Series -- as soon as you get out there, it'll be cold, but then you'll forget about it.

"It affects people in different ways, but it's funny when you get to the big leagues, stuff that bothers you before doesn't. Just being in the big leagues makes you a better player."

C.J. Moore is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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