DENVER • Floyd’s been working baseball games at altitude since LoDo was the other side of the tracks. Twenty-seven years, in fact, back to the Zephyrs days at Mile High. My man knows how to pour a beer, and the Blue Moon he topped off for one lucky fan served as the perfect antidote to Thursday’s 94-degree heat.
And Floyd can’t for the life of him remember a time in which his beer kiosk was in such danger from home-run balls: “It seems like there’s been more of them. I don’t know what it is. Once I hear people screaming I cover my head.”
Heads up! The first-place Rockies are comin’ through and quite suddenly carrying big sticks.
After memorable home runs from Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story each bounced off the brick wall that backstops the concourse in left field, I had to ask Arenado the obvious: can you envision hitting the actual scoreboard? Shoot, with its scraggly silhouette of the Rocky Mountains, the thing looks like a cracked iPhone anyway.
“Not me. I don’t have the bat. I have power, but I just get them over,” Arenado said with a laugh. “Story might be able to do it, or maybe (Matt) Holliday. They launch. But I’m just happy my ball gets over.”
Alan’s just happy when a ball gets over his own head. During the Rockies’ 10-3 whoopin’ of the Diamondbacks, Alan was the usher showing folks where to find the pizza joint in Coors Field when Story cracked one 471 feet. That followed Arenado’s blast of 464 feet, his 34th of the season and longest home run since at least 2015. Story said they’re not trying to one-up each other, and he’s not one to fib. His seven homers this month lead the majors, and his 33 passed Troy Tulowitzki for the most by a Rockies shortstop. Story’s 505-foot Coors Field record stands as the benchmark.
“It’s chaos when a ball comes flying up here,” said Alan, the usher. “You’re smart to just get out of the way.”
When Story enters one of his zones, it’s best to just get out of the way. Thursday’s moonshot came off a 91-mph fastball and made sure Story now owns two of the three longest home runs at Coors Field this season. (Fun fact: Ian Desmond is the only other Rockie with two in the top 10.) He’s launching home runs that aren’t the cheapies that send opposing fans into hysterics about the altitude and physics and whatever other excuses they can come up with. These are home runs that had Debbie telling fans, “We had one land on the concourse just last inning!”
Debbie was the usher supervising Section 152. She’s in her 11th year at the ballpark and wants someone to come up with a proper nickname for the concourse that’s being used as a target.
How about the landing strip?
“How about it’s so hot today?”
Fair, but then so are the Rockies. The most complete team in club history is playing its best ball at a really good time to be doing that. They went 7-3 in this homestand and dumped the D-Backs into a 4.5-game hole in the NL West. The Dodgers were 1.5 games back entering Thursday. But let’s not go tossing around jinxes.
“It’s not over ‘till it’s over,” manager Bud Black said. “I heard that once.”
“It feels good to come out every day and know you’re going to win,” DPS grad Kyle Freeland said while slipping on a Von Miller jersey and lamenting the fact he couldn’t find a Phillip Lindsay one. Freeland allowed three runs over six innings, hit a double and bunted a single.
“He’s an animal,” Arenado said.
The home run-ball hunters over in the landing strip are animals, too.
“People will run over their own mother for a home run ball!” Alan said.
Hang out long enough with Debbie, Alan and Floyd, and you just might get lucky, or run over.
Next up: banging one off the scoreboard. It’s coming, you know. Better cover your head.
(Contact Gazette sports columnist Paul Klee at email@example.com or on Twitter at @bypaulklee.)