Rockies' humidor gains steam in MLB
All 30 clubs to keep balls in temperature-controlled settings
02/08/2007 8:00 PM ET
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
DENVER -- The Colorado Rockies' method of storing baseballs is fast growing from a curiosity to standard operating procedure in the Majors.
Since 2002, the Rockies have kept baseballs in an atmosphere-controlled climate, known locally as "the humidor," to keep them from shrinking, hardening and losing friction in Colorado's unique environment. Major League Baseball stopped short of mandating all teams adopt such an apparatus, but the move toward standardization will continue in 2007.
All 30 clubs will be keeping their baseballs in temperature-controlled settings. In another move toward ensuring that balls stay at specifications set by manufacturer Rawlings, Major League Baseball has adopted a shelf-life rule, MLB executive vice president, baseball operations Jimmie Lee Solomon said Thursday.
"We did send out a directive that teams are to use current year-purchased balls, not balls from previous years -- they may use those in batting practice, but not in games," Solomon said.
As for storage, Solomon said some clubs have humidity controls for the area where balls are stored, but he did not know how many.
Much of the focus on baseball storage is on the Rockies, who began operating the humidor in 2002. Before then, runs and home runs were at an off-the-charts pace at Coors Field. The prevailing theory was that the increase was due, partly at least, to the mile-high dry climate of Coors Field in Denver.
Whenever there is a run of high-scoring games, the Rockies are questioned about how they're operating the humidor, but Solomon said what the Rockies are doing "will be the industry standard in the not-too-distant future."
As has been the case for the last five seasons, the Rockies must file weekly reports with Major League Baseball, and MLB operations will travel to Coors for periodic checks. Solomon said the Rockies are monitored more than any other club.
Solomon called the monitoring of a climate's effects on baseballs, and in turn how the ball performs in games, "an emerging science." But the eventual goal is to make sure that the baseball in all venues stays at Rawlings' specifications, presumably with all teams storing them in a standard chamber.
"It's going to take time -- it's not a cheap apparatus," Solomon said.
The one at Coors reportedly cost $15,000, not counting the cost of operating it and filing paperwork.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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MLB's Humidor Effect
By Ernest Miller
WagerWeb.com Contributing Writer
Buoyed by the success of the humidor experiment in Denver, baseball has adopted tighter restrictions in how game-used baseballs are stored.
The Colorado Rockies, in an effort to curtail the football-like scores that once were common at Coors Field, began storing game balls in a humidor in 2002. The thinking was that the dry air at the high altitude in Denver caused the baseballs to harden, exacerbating the problems of controlling the hitters in the thin air. The humidors regulated the temperature and humidity in which the balls were stored after arriving from the manufacturer.
Scoring has decreased in Denver from 15.0 runs per game at its peak in 1996 to a nadir of 10.7 last season. Many observers credit the humidor as the primary cause of that drop.
Now baseball wants everyone to adopt similar specifications for baseball storage, though the league isn't telling teams they have to use humidors.
''The specifications that Rawlings recommends are a 70 degree temperature and 50 percent humidity,'' baseball senior vice president Joe Garagiola Jr. said Friday.
''We have contacted all 30 of the clubs, and they have all confirmed to us that they will all be storing their baseballs in a temperature-controlled facility. We're not going to have humidors everyplace, but every place will be temperature controlled, and so I think there will be a very high degree of uniformity.''
So does that mean we can expect and across-the-board drop in scoring this coming season? Not exactly.
''I guess you could say this is the first time that we were proactive in reaching out to the teams,'' Garagiola said. ''The vast majority of teams were already doing this. And that ones that weren't -- they weren't being left out on pallets in the parking lot. Everybody was taking good care of their baseballs.''
If Garagiola is correct in saying that most of the teams were already storing their baseballs in homogeneous environments, then really not much will change in the coming season.
That's not to say that scoring won't drop. It's also not to say that scoring won't rise.
While the long-term trend in scoring has undoubtedly been an upward slope the last 20 years or so, it's common for scoring to fluctuate from season to season. So whether or not the new restrictions will have any lasting impact on scoring levels, we won't know for sure for several seasons, if ever.