The 2021 T-Mobile Home Run Derby just got even more exciting.
The Derby, scheduled for Monday on ESPN, is always a good source of prodigious feats of power. The fact that this year’s venue, hitter-friendly Coors Field, sits at mile-high altitude in Denver should only serve to enhance that dynamic. But now that’s even more the case than you might have already thought.
Major League Baseball announced Wednesday night that Coors Field’s humidor will not be in use for the Derby. That could mean more home runs, as well as longer home runs.
In other words, expect to see Statcast get a serious workout as it tracks each and every big fly that soars off the bats of the Derby’s prestigious eight-man field. One number that group will be taking aim at, with the assistance of the humidor-free baseballs: 513 feet. That’s the record for the longest homer Statcast has ever tracked at a Home Run Derby (since 2016). It was hit by the Yankees’ Aaron Judge in 2017 at Marlins Park. (The longest homer Statcast has tracked in a real game was a 505-footer by Nomar Mazara, then with the Rangers, in 2019).
Those numbers could easily be under attack from the likes of the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani and the Rangers’ Joey Gallo, as they swing for the fences -- and far beyond.
But why does the humidor (or lack thereof) matter here? Denver’s mile-high atmosphere, with its low air pressure, makes the ball fly farther. It also dries out baseballs, which can make them bouncier, and therefore, come off the bat with more force.
The Rockies installed the humidor at Coors Field in 2002. The small chamber controls temperature and moisture, keeping baseballs at 70 degrees and 50% humidity until they are ready for action. Instead of drying out, the balls remain at the specifications intended by the manufacturer. The humidor can only do so much, of course, but it may help contain Coors Field’s homer-happiness a bit.
For one night, however, the humidor will take a break. The sluggers will unleash their biggest swings, the baseballs will fly and, perhaps, some records will fall.