8/24/09 at Coors Field

I woke up at 6:20am, raced to Newark International Airport, flew nonstop to Denver, and made it to Coors Field by 3:30pm:

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I headed inside to the Rockies’ office…

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…and met up with Jay Alves, the Rockies’ vice president of communications and public relations. I’d spoken to him a week earlier, told him that I was working on a book about baseballs, and asked if I could see the humidor. (In case you don’t know, the Rockies have been storing their game balls in a humidor since 2002 to prevent them from drying out in the mile-high air; dry baseballs become lighter and harder, and they travel way too far when they’re hit.) Jay warned me that I was going to be “underwhelmed” by the humidor — that it was small and that there really wasn’t much to see. I didn’t care. I had to set foot in it, and Jay kindly accommodated me. He even let me take photos, and he said I could share them on my blog, so here we go…

The humidor is located in the street-level/employees-only concourse:

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The whole thing is VERY small (and yes, it’s locked). Here’s what it looks like on the inside:

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As you can see, there are cases of balls on the left (six dozen balls per case). The smaller boxes which hold a dozen balls apiece are on the right.

The temperature in there is 70 degrees, and the humidity is kept at 50 percent, but I didn’t see any dials or gauges.

Even though the room was small, there was a lot to see…

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…but I didn’t get to photograph everything because Jay was in a serious rush to get back to work. I probably spent less than two minutes inside the humidor, but at least I got to SEE it.

Here I am inside it:

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Before I knew it, I was back out on the street. The brief tour felt like a distant blur, like a strange fragment of a dream that kept replaying in my mind.

I headed over to Gate E and (after switching caps) met up with some friends.

Pictured below from left to right:

1) Dan Sauvageau (who has snagged roughly 90 game home runs)
2) Danny Wood (who showed me his incredible baseball collection on June 20, 2008)
3) Danny’s wife Nettie (who’d picked me up at the airport earlier in the day)
4) me (happy to be staying with Danny and Nettie this week)

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The gates opened at 4:30pm (two hours and ten minutes before game time) and I raced out to the left field bleachers. Here’s what the seats looked like after a couple minutes:

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Dan had hooked me up with a front-row ticket, but there were a bunch of ballhawks in that row, so for the most part, I stayed farther back and took my chances in the main part of the bleachers. (At Coors Field, you can’t go into the front row in left field unless you have a ticket for the front row, even during batting practice.) I got Ubaldo Jimemez to toss me a ball by asking him in Spanish, and that was the only ball I snagged during the Rockies’ portion of BP.

When the Giants started hitting, I headed over to right field. As you can see in the following photo, the platform that extends out from the seats makes it impossible to use the glove trick for balls that are sitting on the warning track:

9_right_field_during_BP_08_24_09.jpg

The nice thing about the right field section, however, is that there aren’t any railings in the staircases, so it’s easy to run around. Unfortunately, the section only extends out to straight-away right field, so most of the home runs were uncatchable and landed in the bullpen in right-center.

Tim Lincecum was shagging in right-center, and I got him to toss me a ball. I took the following photo from the row where I caught it:

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Five minutes later, I caught a home run that was hit by Eugenio Velez. It was a line drive that was heading RIGHT at me, but since I was in Denver (where the air is thin and balls carry a long way), I turned around and bolted up the steps past a fat guy with a glove, then turned around at the last second and jumped as high as I could and made the catch high over my head. And guess what? That was the end of batting practice. It ended more than 20 minutes early because it started drizzling and the wussy grounds crew rolled out the tarp:

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I noticed that there were two balls sitting within reach in the bullpen. I used my glove trick to reel in the ball on the right…

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…and was stopped by security while going for the ball on the left.

There were more than a dozen balls sitting further out in the bullpens. Two security-type guys walked out and retrieved them and didn’t toss a single ball into the crowd. I thought that was really weak, and I let them know it. There were a few young kids with gloves nearby, standing quietly in the rain, but no, the Rockies couldn’t afford to part with a few baseballs (which were probably too damp to re-use anyway). I later gave away one of my baseballs to a kid.

I had some time to kill after BP, so I wandered up to the “rock pile” section in deeeeeeep center field and took a few photos. Here’s one of them:

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(The tarp didn’t stay on the field long.)

Before the game started, I snuck down near the Giants’ dugout and tried to get Pablo Sandoval’s warm-up ball…

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…but I ended up getting one from Nate Schierholtz instead.

Then Schierholtz signed my ticket:

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What a lame signature. Seriously, what kind of garbage IS that?

I headed out to left field once the game started. This was my view:

16_view_during_game_08_24_09.jpg

This was the view to my right…

17_view_to_my_right_08_24_09.jpg

…and this was the view to my left:

18_view_to_my_left_08_24_09.jpg

It was home run HEAVEN — or rather it would have been home run heaven if anyone had managed to hit a ball anywhere near me, but no, my game home run curse continued.

Do you remember that story I wrote last year about Barry Bonds’ final home run ball? Well, two of the three key ballhawks in that incident were at the game last night. Jameson Sutton, the fan who snagged that ball was there:

19_jameson_sutton.jpg

Jameson sold that ball at auction for $376,612 largely because of this man, Robert Harmon:

20_robert_harmon_08_24_09.jpg

Robert, as you may recall, snagged a dummy ball that Jameson had inadvertently dropped while going for the real one. I won’t re-tell the whole story here. It’s archived on Yahoo Sports for your viewing pleasure.

Anyway, the game was really slow for the first 13 innings. Pablo Sandoval put the Giants on the board with a sacrifice fly in the top of the 1st, and Todd Helton tied the score by drawing a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the 5th.

That was it.

The 14th inning, however, was a totally different story. In the top of the frame, Edgar Renteria hit a one-out triple and Travis Ishikawa walked. Eugenio Velez then hit a two-run triple to left center and scored two batters later on a Juan Uribe groundout,.

The Giants had taken a 4-1 lead:

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I was sick of sitting 400 feet from home plate at that point, so I told Robert that I was heading over near home plate, and that he could have the walk-off grand slam.

This was my view in the bottom of the 14th inning:

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How did that half-inning start? With a leadoff walk to Dexter Fowler. Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti made a visit to the mound, and his advice must have helped because Brandon Medders got Clint Barmes to pop out.

But then things fell apart.

Medders was taken out of the game and the new pitcher, Justin Miller, proceeded to give up a single to pinch hitter Chris Iannetta. Then he walked Troy Tulowitzki to load the bases, and then he walked Adam Eaton to force in a run. (Did you hear me? He walked ADAM EATON!!!) Merkin Valdez came in to pitch after that, and on his second pitch, Ryan Spilborghs blasted an opposite field shot into the Rockies’ bullpen. It was the first walk-off grand slam in Rockies history.

Final score: Rockies 6, Giants 4.

Wow.

SNAGGING STATS:

23_the_four_balls_i_kept_08_24_09.jpg• 5 balls at this game (4 pictured here because I gave one away)

• 385 balls in 44 games this season = 8.75 balls per game.

• 613 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 172 consecutive games outside of New York with at least one ball

• 4,205 total balls

CHARITY STATS:

• 119 donors (Heath Bell made a pledge; you can too)

• $24.76 pledged per ball

• $123.80 raised at this game

• $9,532.60 raised this season for Pitch In For Baseball

11 Comments

Sounds like the game got pretty intense there at the end! I love seeing things like that in person, TV doesn’t do the intensity justice. For a second there I thought you were going to say that the grand slam was hit to your empty seat. THAT would’ve sucked! But, it didn’t happen that way, so all is well. Good luck the rest of the week!
Brian
http://txbaseballfan.mlblogs.com

Wow Zack! What a good game for snagging and history!

Haven’t been to Coors yet, but want to.

I leave for the New Yankee stadium soon! I’ll let you know how I do!

If you sit in the last row of the rockpile, you are so far away that you see the ball get hit about a second before you hear it.

I was watching this game for a while … great stuff. I love well-played National League baseball. And Zack, I think I saw you on the Eugenio Velez triple.

Anyway, I’m about to be in Seattle for three games this week! If anybody on here from Seattle is gonna be at Safeco on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday, let me know.

Zack and everyone- i was @ the yankee game last night, did pretty good, u can read about it on my blog. BUT Nelson Cruz’s homerun wouldve landed IN MY SEAT if the guy sitting behind me didn’t barehand/chest it. Now, ive waited my whole life for a chance, and when it was hit, it looked like it was going ten rows down. i immediatly ran down and scooted into a section. i looked up to see tht it traveled all the waay to MY seat!!! the guy who caught it said it looked like it was landing where i ran to as well. im still sorta pissed, but yesterday i couldnt stop thinking of it. it hit its peak, and traveled an extra fifteen feet. if i was any other fan, and didnt run down judging where it would land, I wouldve had the EASIEST HOMERUN CATCH EVER. rly, if i wasnt a ballhawk trying to judge it, i would or couldve sat in my chair, raised my glove and caught it.

EVERYONE-
Thanks for reading. I’m racing to finish my entry about Day 2. (That WAS me on the Velez triple. Good call, Greg.) More later…

Great pictures. It looks like it was a great game.
-Dillon
http://dillonm.mlblogs.com

Hey Zack,

Coors Field seems great. I really want to and cannot wait to get back there. Hopefully later this season. The Humidor actually seems pretty cool, and obviously very different. Nice entry.

Ben

BRIAN-
Once the bases were loaded, I was second-guessing myself for leaving my seat. Thankfully the ball didn’t land there.

REDFAN101-
Cool…let me know.

PUCK COLLECTOR-
Yeesh. I guess that’s an interesting thing to experience for SOME people who don’t care about snagging baseballs.

GREG-
Can’t wait to hear about Seattle.

BASEBALL EXPERIENCES-
Oh man, sorry to hear that. That totally sucks!

DILLON-
Thanks.

BEN-
It’s actually a tough place for BP, and the rules are kinda strict in some situations, but overall, I love it.

Great photo tour, Zack! I’ve always wondered what those super fancy club/restaurant/lounge places looked like in baseball stadiums. I agree with you, if I had season tickets there I’d just bypass ‘em (the indoor areas) and go bonkers with all the foul ball possibilities. Congrats on 10 at Citi.
Question for ya: When are you heading out here to the West Coast again? Next season, I would imagine…
~Matt
http://bloggingboutbaseball.mlblogs.com/

LOL… I don’t know what happened but the above comment should have gone on your 9/8/09 entry. Weirdness.
~Matt
http://bloggingboutbaseball.mlblogs.com/

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