Lynchburg pitcher Doug Henley prefers warmer weather but he doesn't complain when it gets cold.
Henley stole the show at the Alexandria Dukes' home opener last night, limiting the hosts to a scratch single as the Mets triumphed, 4-0, in Carolina League action before 610 chilled fans at Four Mile Run Park.
"I drew one other starting assignment in weather this cold and that was in high school," said the 22-year-old Met right-hander from Rocky Mount, N.C. "It was 36 degrees and I struck out 20 of 21 batters I faced and I'm not a strikeout pitcher. I threw a one-hitter that night, also.
"I didn't even know I was going to pitch tonight until 4 o'clock. I was supposed to pitch Saturday but we got rained out Saturday and Sunday and our whole rotation was fouled up. I didn't know anything about this team. I just tried to sting them a little on the hands."
Despite the recent rains, the field was in surprisingly good condition. General Manager Rick Holt and his ground crew of Craig Jones and Robbie Werth worked on it nearly 24 hours straight.
"We worked right through from 8 o'clock last night. I fell asleep for about 20 minutes in the morning around 6:30, but (club presidents) Gene Thomas came in to see what was going on, so we started right back in," said Holt, whose pants were covered to the knees with mud.
Most of the fans braved the cold until the seventh inning when a two-run Lynchburg rally gave the Mets a 3-0 advantage. Then many milled near the exit to catch a couple of plays before they left.
"I don't like this weather at all. I just came out because it was the opener," said Jack Fogerty, who drove in from Woodbridge. "I saw one guy out here with shortsleeve shirt."
"it's too early to tell about the Dukes. They've been through the lineup three times and I haven't seen anything. It's just too cold."
At least a couple of fans were not disturbed by the 50-degree temperatures that were worsened by 15 mph winds.
"We played here a couple of years ago so we're used to the cold. We played in some games when it was 20 degrees here," said Joel Oleinik, who with companion Bob Weckstein, were members of the 1978 Dukes. "I'm surprised by the condition of the field. When we were here it would have been like a swamp. I'm surprised there aren't more people here."
The only hit Henley allowed came with one out in the first when Victor Rodriguez beat out a grounder to short. Rodriguez moved to third on a wild playoff attempt by Henley and was the only Duke to make it past first base.
Henley, who struck out three and walked three, never had more than one runner on base and at one point retired 13 straight batters.
The Mets scored in the third when Bill Rittweger singled, stole second and scored on Rusty Tillman's two-out single to right.