DENVER (CBS4) – Back in the day, the Rockies were hitting home run after home run.
They earned the name The Blake Street Bombers.
That was then.
Since 2002 the Rox have kept baseballs in a humid environment in what’s called an environmental storage chamber — a fancy name for humidor — a big humidor. It’s down in the lonely passageways of Coors Field.
Vice President of Baseball Operations Kevin Kahn said it was the team’s idea. It came from the Rockies’ staff engineer. He figured balls that were drying out in Colorado’s dry climate were putting them out of major league specs, so they created a humid environment. They use 50 percent humidity to keep the balls from shrinking and losing their grain.
“The analogy pitchers used was that it was like trying to throw a cue ball,” Kahn said. “It was that slick.”
If you can’t get a grip on the ball, you can’t throw a slider or a curve as well. Coors Field was built large because of Colorado’s thin air, but back then nobody had considered the effect of dryness.
Since 2002 they’ve kept baseballs in the humidor. Home runs have dropped. In 2001, there were 268, this year 185. The Rockies haven’t been bothered by the drop in homers.
“It wasn’t so much that we wanted to create an equal playing field and we wanted to play the same way on the road as we would at home,” Kahn said.
It hasn’t bothered fans so much either.
“It’s just that now it’s not a dried out hard leather thing, and now when the pitchers throw a curve ball, it curves. They throw a change-up, it drops,” said one fan. “I like well played games as opposed to just home run hitting contests,” said another.
It’s worked for the Rockies this year. Pitching is better. Runs are down from before the humidor days. Football-like scores are harder to come by. Major league baseball is keeping track of how things go. While baseballs in Florida and Atlanta have plenty of humidity, Arizona is also dry. Humidors might be put into place for other teams to keep things consistent.
There’s plenty of space in the humidor in spite of the hundreds of baseballs. Kahn said there’s been no movement to store celebratory cigars in the humidor. But, “If we win the whole thing, who knows what will happen in here.”