Did you hear the one about the elk hunter whose personal epiphany at 10,000 feet altered Major League Baseball?
Here’s the story. According to the Greeley Tribune, Tony Cowell worked on the crew as an electrician and a crew foreman to help build the Colorado Rockies baseball stadium in 1995. Given Denver’s “thinner air” due to its high elevation, baseballs flew out of the ballpark at record rate. Batters loved it. Pitchers hated it. The Rockies sought a solution so they reached out to their employees asking for any ideas they may have.
“I was elk hunting in the Flat Top Wilderness when the thought popped into my head,” Cowell told the Greeley Tribune. “I was up there hunting and I had on this old pair of leather hunting boots and they got all wet and dirty. Then they dried out and they got really uncomfortable. I remember thinking, ‘I hate the way these things shrink up when they dry out.’ That’s when I sort of put two and two together. ‘Wait a minute, my boots are made of leather. A baseball’s outsides are made of leather. It’s not just about the altitude. The baseballs are drying out, just like my boots.’”
Cowell suggested the team store game-day balls in a humidor, a small storage container similar to a refrigerator that keeps moisture in the air and at a constant temperature to prevent baseballs from drying out.
The Rockies began storing baseballs for the 2002 season. Now, 20 years later in 2022, Major League Baseball announced all 30 of its teams do the same beginning this season.
(Photo credit: Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation)