KANSAS CITY, Mo. — There are times the past few weeks when Twins catcher Joe Mauer would gaze at scoreboards in ballparks around the country, trying to see what kind of heat the Minnesota pitchers are throwing, and he’s been genuinely confused.
No way Scott Diamond is hitting triple digits with his fastball, Mauer thought. No chance that Brian Duensing is ramping it up to Aroldis Chapman-like numbers.
Turns out that Mauer was seeing readings for a different kind of heat – the temperature.
A crippling heat wave that settled over the continental United States contributed to the hottest first six months of a year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Monday. Records were broken from coast to coast – 104 degrees in Washington and hotter in Kansas City, where Major League Baseball played its annual All-Star Game Tuesday night.
Mauer has played enough games against the Royals to understand how insufferable the heat can be in Kansas City. That’s why he’d been keeping a wary eye on the weather ever since he was picked for his fifth All-Star Game, and was relieved to see the heat wave finally crack.
“The weathermen knew we were coming, so they gave us a break,” Mauer said. “It’s a hot place in the summer, so to have a break is really nice.”
Even if it is a modest break.
It was still well over 80 degrees by 10 a.m. Tuesday, when fans started to set up tailgates outside Kauffman Stadium. The high was expected to be in the mid-90s, about the time the players were taking the field for batting practice, before cooling off for the first pitch.
Still, it was a welcome relief for All-Star Game organizers who were concerned about a heat wave that contributed to at least 35 deaths around the country. Water was readily available at the ballpark, and every truck and trailer brought in to help produce the Midsummer Classic had large tubes snaking through the parking lot to pipe in air conditioning.
The Royals played Tampa Bay just before the All-Star break, and the temperature in Kansas City for the afternoon game was well over 100 degrees. Manager Ned Yost started to feel sorry for plate umpire Tony Randazzo, drenched in sweat beneath his bulky pads, and just about everyone was relieved when Billy Butler homered to break an eighth-inning tie.
“We were going to start losing guys,” Yost said. “The umpire was about ready to fall out behind home plate. The heat out there was pretty oppressive.”
The weather was similar just down I-70 in St. Louis, where temps were over 100 degrees for all but one game of a 10-game homestand. They topped out at 106 on Saturday, the highest recorded for a Cardinals game since the statistic was first logged in 1988.