05/08/2002 9:10 pm ET
Rockies hope to score with humidor
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
No, it's not for those cigars that Colorado Rockies manager Clint
Turns out the Colorado Rockies, with permission from Major League
Baseball, have been storing their baseballs in a humidor of sorts in
order to curb some of the effect the altitude has on the way the ball
Baseballs are being stored in a temperature-controlled room, which
the club calls an environmental chamber, with the humidity set for 40
percent. It's not a huge room -- eight to 10 adults would take up about
every inch of it -- but it could make a huge difference.
"Humidifying the balls?" Rockies' veteran Larry Walker said. "I don't know what that's all about. If it's in there with the cigars you might want to smoke that thing when you take it out."
The theory is in humidity-free Colorado, balls tend to dry out and
they bounce off the bats farther. One scientific estimate says a ball
struck at Coors Field will travel 9 percent farther than one struck the
same way in a venue with more humidity. The humidity also is supposed to
allay the common complaint that the balls are dry and slick, which
makes them harder for pitchers to grip.
"Nothing is done to the baseballs, that's the biggest misconception," said Jay Alves, Colorado's senior director of communications. "What we're doing is maintaining the integrity of the ball as it arrives. We keep it exactly as it is as it arrives."
Scoring is down at Coors. It could be the humidified baseballs. Or it could be that the Rockies aren't hitting well and got excellent pitching while sweeping a recent six-game homestand.
Scoring is down in 22 of 30 parks, but the 9.8 runs per game at Coors represents nearly six
fewer runs that in the same period during the first seven seasons the park has been open. Homers are down 1.42 percent.
"I don't think there is any one answer to it," said Rockies
assistant general manager Josh Byrnes. "Runs are down here, and they're down in a majority of ballparks.
"I do think part of it is the talent level of the pitching. The fact
we've faced (Los Angeles') Odalis Perez, Kazuhisha Ishii and
(Houston's) Roy Oswalt in home games has something to do with the offensive
output. But all we're trying to do is get the balls legal, because when we
don't store them properly they do get smaller and harder."
No one knows if the new storage method is the reason for the difference in
how Coors is playing, but Byrnes said the Rockies are willing to see if
they can make the game in Colorado similar than in other venues. While
the odd reactions of the ball have helped the Rockies score runs in
great numbers over their history, that has been negated by the problems
Colorado pitchers have experienced over the years.
"We still haven't seen how the balls will react in the summer
months, but we control the environment in that room and put the balls in
play," Brynes said. "We hope we'll be putting a baseball out there that has
the same effect as in other places."
Thomas Harding covers the Rockies for MLB.com. This story was not
subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.