KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Rain started to fall at first pitch, and by the time the Kansas City Royals’ game against the Tampa Bay Rays was postponed Thursday afternoon, Kauffman Stadium resembled a snow globe.
Fat flakes were sticking to the field, and members of both teams popped out of their dugouts to take in a spectacle more suited to January or February. There hasn’t been measurable snow in May in Kansas City since 1907.
No makeup date was set and the game will be replayed in its entirety — Kansas City led 1-0 midway through the fourth inning when it was called. The Rays weren’t scheduled to return to Kansas City again this season.
“It’s not just about playing five innings. It’s about playing nine,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “If you don’t think you can get in nine innings, I think it’s the appropriate thing to do.”
The Royals were ahead after an RBI single by Alex Gordon. But once the tarp was pulled onto the field, it began to appear increasingly unlikely that Kansas City wouldn’t get the three more outs it needed to qualify for a win.
Naturally, that left plenty of Royals frustrated.
“I said, ‘Let’s throw down some dirt and let’s try to get it in,’” said Royals outfielder Jeff Francoeur, adding that the game shouldn’t have been started if it wasn’t going to be finished.
“We played four innings. Why not play one more?” Gordon asked. “Now we just have to cancel another off day and play it again.”
Kansas City already has had three games postponed due to weather, and another against the Red Sox postponed during the search for the Boston Marathon bombing suspects last month.
The Rays had a game against Boston rained out on April 12.
“I think they pushed the envelope as far as they could to get the game in,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “They did everything they could do to get as far as we could.”
The temperature was 41 degrees with winds gusting to 31 mph and rain just beginning to fall when the Royals’ Ervin Santana threw the first pitch. The conditions continued to deteriorate as some of the players, dressed in stocking caps and gloves, ran in place to stay warm.
“It was not good from the very first pitch,” Maddon said. “It was slick, nasty and cold and raining. It’s not your typical good baseball day.”
When snow starting to fall, the creative team operating Kauffman Stadium played the Yule Log video on the massive screen in center field and “Let It Snow” on the loudspeakers.
The game was delayed 2 hours, 20 minutes before the umpires finally called it.
None of the makeup options are appealing.
Two mutual days off would each force the Royals to play more than 20 consecutive days, and July 29 would mean Kansas City would have to swing home between games in Chicago and Minnesota, and the Rays would have to stop by while returning home from New York.
The Royals play at Tampa Bay from June 14-16.
While the game was suspended, the grounds crew optimistically tried to get the field ready should a window allow its completion. First, they used a couple of big fans to blow air under the tarp and dry out the infield dirt. Then, they peeled back half of the tarp and prepped one half of the infield, recovered it, and peeled back the other half to do the same thing.
They even managed to paint fresh lines during a short period of light precipitation, only for the freezing rain to pick up again and the tarp to go back on the field.
When the delay reached the 2-hour mark, the rain turned to snow, and members of the Rays and Royals started popping up in their dugouts to take pictures of the flakes falling.
The high temperature barely eked over 40 degrees, and that was overnight, unofficially breaking the record for coldest high temperature on May 2 of 48 degrees set in 1917.
It could be even worse on May 3, too.
The White Sox are due in town Friday night to start a three-game series, but the forecast calls for temperatures in the 30s and a 50-percent chance of precipitation at first pitch.
“I try not to get frustrated over things I can’t control,” Yost said. “I can’t control the weather. I’ve tried before and it never worked. You just deal with it. It is what it is.”