Sunday, August 26, 2007

Game #23: Mile High Longball

Coors Field has always been a house of horrors for pitchers, home and away, for three separate, but related reasons. At a mile above sea level, balls travel farther, turning what should be long fly balls into game-breaking home runs. To compensate for this, the designers of the park built quite a large outfield, leaving more room for outfielders to cover, and therefore increasing the likelihood of doubles and triples. Finally, the thin air reduces the degree to which balls break through the air between pitcher and hitter, making pitches easier to hit, and hit far.

On this night, all of those factors seemed to be well in play for the Rockies pitching, as the worst-in-the-league Pirates erupted for 6 home runs, and sent Rockies starter Josh Fogg packing after giving up 8 runs and 11 hits in only 3 innings of work. All told, the Pirates put 11 runs on the board while scoring runs in each of the first 6 innings. Meanwhile, it seemed the Rockies hitters decided to take the evening off, scraping out only two runs against the Pirates. Still, this apparently lopsided outcome was at least put into perspective, as across the country, the Texas Rangers were scoring a mind-boggling 30 runs against the Orioles.

Unlike at the Metrodome, this lopsided outcome still made for a decent experience, as Coors Field is a nice place to catch a game, and as I was joined by my friend Lisa, recently relocated to Colorado, in laughing off the Rockies’ ineptitude.

Coors is similar in many ways to The-Park-Formerly-Known-As-Pac-Bell and to PNC Park, and mirrors much of the same architecture and feel, with a great combination of classic brick, exposed steel, and old-style charm. That said, it remains a step behind those other two parks, perhaps due to having less to work with from a surrounding natural beauty standpoint. This may seem an odd thing to say, given the presence of the Rockies not far away, but the distance between downtown Denver and the mountains is sufficient to blunt the impact that the mountains could otherwise have on the ballpark. Coors Field is also just a bit too big, packing in far more seats than feels quite right to a park of this style. While at PNC and Pac Bell, the atmosphere remains intimate, and the banks of seats all feel quite close, at Coors the sense that the farthest seats really are a distance from the action is fairly strong.

The one great mountain tribute in the park is a display of rocks, trees, and water in the outfield, actually growing right out of the visiting team’s dugout. These rocks and trees bring a bit of the Colorado outdoors feel from the nearby mountains right into the park, and are a great reminder that this is Denver.

The other signature Denver tradition is to revel in their status of being the “mile-high” city. In the ballpark, this is represented by a purple row of seats located at the one-mile-above-sea-level point. These seats were apparently a hot commodity when the park first opened, but the fact that they are well up in the upper deck kept this row mostly clear during my game

I did have to take a pass on the trademark food here in Denver. I’m honestly not sure I could stomach these anywhere, but the prospect of sampling them at a ballpark seems even more incomprehensible. I’ve packaged up an order and shipped it to Sydney, though, so Mark, they’ll be waiting for you when you finally make landfall.


I had some time earlier in the day to head into the mountains west of Boulder to enjoy some of that scenery first-hand. While this wasn’t close to being a hard-core hike, it was a great chance to see just a bit of what Colorado’s known for.

Also, the weather in Colorado was as odd as it was in the Midwest, with heavy thunderstorms threatening the game but clearing up by first pitch. At one point as I was driving just south of Boulder, there were hail, blue skies, and 80 degree weather, all at once.

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