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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Thank a box for taking the pop out of park
By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer
Published October 27, 2007
DENVER - What looks like another beer cooler in the bowels of Coors Field is actually an innovation that changed the way baseball has been played in the mile-high altitude.
After nine years of watching batters feast and pitchers complain of having no grip or feel for their pitches, the Rockies in 2002 started storing the balls in a 9- by 9-foot humidor. The air is kept at 70 degrees, the humidity at 50 percent and the balls at regulation specifications - 5 to 5.25 ounces and 9 to 9 1/4-inch circumference.
The idea, team spokesman Jay Alves said, came from a stadium engineer (Tony Cowell) who noticed his leather hunting boots had dried up and shrunk in the dry, thin summer air, and wondered whether the same thing was happening to the baseballs, which pitchers said felt hard and slick, as if the seams had shrunk.
Since the team plugged in the aluminum-coated, Styrofoam-insulated box, runs and home runs have gone down, and so have the complaints as the balls are the same size, and feel the same, as they do elsewhere.
"I'm a big fan of the humidor guy," Rockies reliever Matt Herges said. "Holding on to a frozen cue ball as opposed to a legitimate horsehide leather baseball is a big difference."
And the humidor has become something of a source of mystery and a star attraction, with Rockies players wearing "Got humidor?" shirts and the team filming a commercial inside. Friday, Alves led a tour of two dozen writers, who filed in to observe this static scene: 48 boxes of World Series balls sitting on metal shelves.
"Everyone knows about the humidor," Herges said. "It's a pitcher's friend."