Mile-high edge? Hurdle knows Coors Field
DENVER — Clint Hurdle has a number of fond memories in Denver.
He spent 13 years there as part of the Rockies' staff. He was the Rockies hitting coach from 1997 to 2001 and the club's manager from 2002-09. He led the Rockies to the World Series in 2007. Two of his children were born while he was with the Rockies.
Hurdle's wife, Karla, has accompanied him on this week's trip. They have a number of friends and favorite places to visit in the Denver area.
What the experience in Colorado gave Hurdle is a rare understanding of the intricacies and game conditions at Coors Field.
What is well documented is Coors Field has ranked at the top, or near the top, in runs and home runs in every year of its existence. This is due to the thin air of mile-high Denver.
Hurdle notes his knowledge of the park goes beyond being aware that fly balls carry an extra 5 percent farther at Coors Field, and that curveballs and sliders do not break quite as sharply.
Hurdle's knowledge of the aerodynamic forces at play perhaps can help even the odds as a road team at Coors Field.
“The balls hold their angles down the line different than many ballparks,” Hurdle said. “You might think a ball is going to go foul, and it will surprise you and stay fair. You have to cover the lines and not give up on balls on the line. ... You need to overplay the ball from a defensive perspective.”
Pirates rookie Gregory Polanco has struggled going back on balls with the Pirates, and he had trouble tracking deep fly balls with Triple-A Indianapolis. Pirates outfielder coach Rick Sofield worked with Polanco in right field before Friday's series opener.
The experience of managing a pitching staff at Coors Field perhaps has influenced Hurdle as Pirates manager, even at pitcher-friendly PNC Park. The Rockies were focused on two-seam fastball pitchers under Hurdle to lessen home runs allowed, and the Pirates also prefer using the groundball-generating fastball.
“While I was here, there was a lot of focus on two-seaming the ball,” Hurdle said. “The humidor provided some balance. (The Rockies use a humidor to keep baseballs from shrinking, hardening and losing friction in Colorado's environment).
“We did try a four-man rotation. We tried to attack the park in that way because we had gone through we some challenging times.”
The challenging times eventually got Hurdle fired in Denver, but he has the Pirates in position to take the lead in the wild-card race and push the Brewers in the NL Central race with a strong showing at his old home park.
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.