When the White Sox and Royals take the field Monday afternoon to start the 2013 regular season, the weather conditions won't be quite as wonderful. Try 39 degrees at first pitch, with a 12 mph wind.
Welcome to April in Chicago, or better yet, welcome to April baseball in Chicago.
"There's no way to prepare for it," said White Sox captain Paul Konerko, who will be making his 15th straight Opening Day start and has seen his fair share of Chicago wind chill. "One thing I can say is it's expected. April and May in the Midwest [stinks]. That's kind of the way it is. If you catch any good days, that's great."
"Once you get out there, it's fine," said White Sox hurler Chris Sale, who makes his first career Opening Day start against the Royals and James Shields. "You get a little adrenaline going and kind of get caught up in the moment of what you are doing, and you are not really focusing on the wind or how cold it is and you just gotta get your mind right and pitch like it's any other day."
Konerko apparently looked at this week's extended forecast when talking about catching any good days. After Monday's frigid start, with the game beginning at 3:10 p.m. CT, the weather for the remaining two against the Royals and this weekend's three-game set against the Mariners is in the high 40s to mid 50s.
The forecast does call for a 50 percent chance of rain on Sunday.
Every now and then, the White Sox do run into a warm first game in Chicago. In fact, their home opener against the Tigers on April 13 of last season featured a high of 65, and in 2010, the White Sox opened the season at home against the Indians, playing under sunny skies and 75 degrees.
Then again, there was the home opener in 2011 against the Rays on April 7, featuring 39 degrees and an 11 mph wind blowing from left to right. Turning this potential April cold into "White Sox weather" becomes a key factor in setting this season's tone, considering the South Siders have 16 home games, marking the most at U.S. Cellular of any one month.
"I hope somehow it turns out to be just like this, but that's part of playing here," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura, sitting in the home team's dugout on Sunday. "Guys know that and they expect that. Hopefully we take advantage of that and it becomes a good thing for us to play in that kind of weather."
"But it's the old, 'Both teams have to play in it' cliché," Konerko said. "It really is that. Baseball wasn't meant to be played in cold weather, but you just got to gut it out. It's that's simple. It's not fun. You'd rather have it where we came from [in Arizona], but it's part of the gig."
Alexei Ramirez has struggled throughout April during his career, hitting just .222 lifetime with six homers and 35 RBIs. Ramirez posted a .207 average with one homer and six RBIs in 2012, although in his sixth year with the White Sox, the shortstop from Cuba has grown accustomed to the change from Arizona Spring Training heat to the Midwest.
For Dayan Viciedo, the object is to stay loose in the cold to keep his blood flowing and make it easier to hit and run the bases. Much like Sale, though, Viciedo believes that once his second Opening Day gets going Monday, he won't even notice the weather.
Viciedo hits sixth in Ventura's first lineup of 2013, forming a formidable middle with Alex Rios, Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko in front of him and Ramirez behind him. The thermometer might go up and down over the next 30 days or so, but the goal at hand for the White Sox doesn't change.
Prove those wrong who believe this team is not a playoff-caliber team.
"You know, I wouldn't say we are trying to prove them wrong but we are trying to prove ourselves right," Sale said. "We are not worried about ... what you guys write or what anyone else has to say about us.
"We believe in ourselves and I'll drop a Florida Gulf Coast [reference] here," added a smiling Sale, referring to the two NCAA Tournament wins by his 15th-seeded alma mater. "Nobody expected them to win anything. They didn't have a big bandwagon or fan base to start with and if you believe in yourself, that can take you a long way. We all believe in ourselves and each other."