Let me start with a photo of my ride to the stadium:
It belongs to a friend and fellow ballhawk named Dan Sauvageau. You’ll see some photos of him in a bit, so for now, I’ll just say that he kindly picked me up at the airport. He was with his 12-year-old daughter, Emily, and I was with my friend/videographer, Brandon Sloter. Brandon had filmed me the day before at Safeco Field and in Oakland the day before that. I’m hoping to do videos for my YouTube channel in all 30 stadiums, and this game in Denver was Day 3 of a four-stadium trip.
We hit some traffic on the way to (and right outside the) stadium . . .
. . . but we still arrived with a little time to spare. Here’s what it looked like just before everyone headed inside:
There must’ve been two dozen people there — how adorable.
As soon as I ran in, a left-handed batter on the Rockies hit a ground-rule double that bounced into the wide aisle behind the outfield wall in left-center. I raced over and grabbed that ball, and less than a minute later, I chased down a home run that landed in nearly the same spot, barely beating out a guy with a fluffy gray beard. Here’s a photo of him glaring at me:
He wasn’t actually glaring. His name is Robert Harmon, and we’ve been friends for years. Remember the story I wrote for Yahoo! about Barry Bonds’ final home run? Robert was featured in it because he was one of three fans who ended up scrambling for that historic ball.
Anyway, here’s a photo of me from behind, taken just after the Giants started hitting:
There was no action at first, but when I saw Hunter Pence step into the cage, it was time to get serious. To put it simply, THE MAN HITS BOMBS in batting practice — I’ve seen him play enough to know that — so I moved all the way back to the concourse behind the left field bleachers. Look how far I was from home plate:
That might seem like an absurd spot to stand and wait for a home run, but keep in mind that this was all taking place one mile above sea level, where, because of the thinner air, baseballs travel 8 to 10 percent farther.
Pence didn’t come close to reaching the concourse at first, but I didn’t give up on him. I knew it was only a matter of time before he launched one, and sure enough, it finally happened. Here’s a screen shot from Brandon’s video that shows another fan tracking the ball and running toward the back of the concourse:
Yeah, THAT’S how far it went.
The other fan judged it perfectly, but unfortunately for him, I was already in the spot where it landed. Here I am reaching up for the catch:
I’ll admit that I look awkward in the screen shot above, but hold your judgment until you actually watch the video. It’s only 31 seconds, so no excuses. Here it is.
As you may have noticed, the title of the video describes this as a “490-foot home run.” I didn’t make that up. Greg Rybarczyk, the founder of ESPN Home Run Tracker, estimated the distance, so don’t bother arguing. I’ve known Greg for a while, so before I posted the video on YouTube, I sent it to him. He said it “had a true distance of about 490 feet, plus or minus maybe 2 or 3 feet since I don’t have the precise time of flight.” This is definitely the longest home run I’ve ever caught, the runner-up being Robinson Cano’s 479-foot blast during the 2011 Home Run Derby in Phoenix.
For the next group of BP, I headed over to right field:
Despite the lack of competition, it was so dead that I only managed to get one ball out there — a toss-up from Mister Pence, which I gave to the nearest/smallest kid.
Back in left-center field, I got a ball thrown to me by Giants pitcher Cory Gearrin. That was my fifth of the day, and I followed that up with a pretty slick catch on a home run. (I think it was hit by Buster Posey). Brandon filmed this one as well, but it’s not on YouTube yet, so for now, you’ll have to settle for two screen shots. Here’s the first . . .
. . . and here’s the second:
Basically, when I realized that the ball was going to sail too high for me to jump and reach, I used a neck-high railing to hoist myself up onto the concrete ledge at the front of the bleachers. Robert jumped in front of me, and two other fans reached out from behind, but the ball ended up in the right spot for me to glove it.
That one felt good.
I caught one more homer at the end of BP — fairly routine and non-acrobatic. That one might’ve been hit by Buster Posey too. (He wasn’t in the starting lineup; that’s why he hit at the end of BP.) Kelby Tomlinson was hitting in that group, as was Madison Bumgarner. If I had to bet, I’d guess Posey, but who knows? I ended up giving away that ball to a father for his little kid.
After BP, I was approached by a fan named Caroline, who asked me to sign a couple of 8 x 10-inch photos of myself:
We had met several years earlier — nice to see that she’s still at it.
I got to spend a little time (albeit rushed and semi-distracted) with a gentleman named Jesse Trujillo, who had set up an interview for me last summer at the height of all the craziness. This was our first in-person meeting, and like an idiot, I neglected to get a photo with him. He and a Coors Field regular named Mike (whom I’d met several times in the past) joined me for a brisk walk to the team store, where I purchased a new Rockies cap. After years of getting crushed in my backpack, my old one looked like crap, so I was glad to upgrade. When it was time to pay, Mike generously lent me his season ticket holder ID card so that I could get a discount — 20 percent, if I’m remembering correctly. Then Jesse took off, and I headed to the right field upper deck with Mike. Until a few years ago, there was nothing but regular seating up there. Now there’s a huge bar/restaurant/lounge/party/standing-room area called The Rooftop. I’d never been up there, so I was glad to finally check it out. Here’s Mike standing beside the loungy spot:
Look how much open space there is:
As planned, I met up with Dan and Robert — here they are with Mike in between:
Forgetting that I live in New York City, where there are famously awesome burger places like Shake Shack, Five Guys, Jackson Hole, and countless other non-franchised restaurants that you haven’t heard of, Robert went on and on about how THIS particular concession stand had THE best burgers . . . so I got a double-cheeseburger. My critique: it was good but not life-changing.
Here’s another photo of the space where fans can walk and hang out on The Rooftop:
It’d be nice to see a thick mess of vines covering that pergola, no?
Brandon was also up there with us. Here’s a photo he took of the field:
That’s a gorgeous view, but I would hate to watch the game from that spot.
Here’s one of The Rooftop’s bars:
Here’s what it looks like from the center-field end of the upper deck:
Given the fact that the Rockies aren’t coming close to filling up Coors Field anymore, I think the new upper deck configuration is a great use of space. But enough of that. Let’s return to Earth, huh?
This was my view during the game:
Speaking of space, look at this glorious aisle:
I want to live there — like, actually set up a legal residence right there in the aisle. There are already outlets in that area, and there are bathrooms and concession stands within a 30-second walk. I suppose it would be awfully cold at the beginning and end of each season, and summer/day games could be unpleasantly hot, but whatever. Sign me up!
Brandon (who’s on Instagram — give him a follow) wandered to the top of the upper deck behind home plate. Here’s what it looked like from up there:
Meanwhile, here’s what I looked like after losing a chance to catch the easiest home run ever:
See the guy in the red shirt directly behind me? In the bottom of the 3rd inning, Nolan Arenado smoked a deep line drive off Jake Peavy that clanked off that guy’s hands and plopped right down into the aisle behind my chair. Why didn’t I get that ball? Because I was sitting with Robert in left-center. I figured his spot was as good as mine — I’ve seen him catch lots of homers on TV — but no, the universe gave me the finger instead. I’m telling you, all I would’ve had to do was stand up and then reach up, and I would’ve caught the ball. I might’ve taken one step back to make it ever easier.
I’ve still never gotten a truly easy home run during a game. I’ve always had to run and/or scramble, climb up or down over a row of seats, reach, lunge, jump, sneak past security, drift/run up or down a staircase, stretch across railings, deal with other people’s hands and gloves in my face, etc. This would’ve been like Ted Williams playing in a slow-pitch softball game. (Umm, wait, I didn’t mean to obnoxiously compare myself to Ted Williams. That was just the first comparison that came to mind. You get my point.)
As bummed as I was about not catching that ball, I was glad that my buddy Bob — another Coors Field regular — ended up with it. He even thanked me, knowing he would’ve had no chance if I’d been sitting in my seat.
Here’s a famous beer vendor at Coors Field known as “Earthman”:
Here I am with Dan and Emily:
Do you like my new Rockies cap? Purple IS my favorite color. For real.
If you’ve read my book, The Baseball, you might recognize Dan as one of the top ten ballhawks of all time — check out pages 287-288 and you’ll see Emily’s photo too. Dan has now snagged 93 home runs during games, and Emily has attended 584 Rockies home games. (Wow! Right?) Next time you’re at Coors Field, go say hi if you see them.
Having learned nothing from my not-sitting-in-my-ticketed-seat blunder, I wandered out to left-center field late in the game. This was the view:
I just couldn’t help myself. LOOK AT ALL THIS SPACE!!!
Oh, and here’s even more space:
(Okay, I feel better now. Kidding. No I don’t.)
In the previous photo, did you notice the outfield wall in right-center field? See how tall it is? That’s new as of this season. During this game, Rockies shortstop Trevor Story hit two triples high off that wall — balls that would’ve cleared the fence in previous seasons.
Here’s the scoreboard with two outs remaining in the game:
Compared to all the pitcher’s duels I’ve sat through in recent seasons at Citi Field, this was a gosh-darned slugfest. And I loved it. But on a personal level, it did me no good. My night ended with seven baseballs, including zero during the game.
Dan, Emily, Brandon, and I used this special route to exit after the final out:
I got one last peek at the field:
There was no time for a lengthy goodbye. Brandon and I had to hurry back to our hotel because we were going to have to wake up at 4:15am the next morning for a flight to Dallas. And Emily was going to have to wake up early for school.
Stay tuned for the video. When Brandon completes the editing process and sends it to me, I’ll post it on YouTube.
UPDATE: Here’s the video.
• 41 balls in 5 games this season = 8.2 balls per game.
• 109 balls in 19 lifetime games at Coors Field = 5.74 balls per game.
• 1,171 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 8,674 total balls
On a final note, my fundraiser for Pitch In For Baseball is now in its eighth season. Once again, people are pledging money for every home run ball that I snag during games. Here’s some info about the fundraiser, and if you donate, you’ll be eligible to win one of these prizes.