Players peppered Vinny Castilla with questions that day at Coors Field, wondering how far the ball might fly. The tall tales of extra-terrestrial home runs in Colorado had already grown to outsized proportions back in 1998, just five years into the Rockies’ existence, as if Paul Bunyan himself was knocking 800-foot shots, then rounding the bases riding a blue ox named Babe Ruth.
“They were curious about how far the ball is going to go in the Home Run Derby,” Castilla said Tuesday. The Rockies’ third baseman that year remembers the other All-Stars preparing for their first opportunities under a spotlight at Coors Field and the curiosities they lobbed his way that week.
Might Mark McGwire line a rocket through the scoreboard, they wanted to know. Could Ken Griffey Jr. launch one out of the stadium? “We hit a lot of balls, but none go to the parking lot,” Castilla said. “But it’s what everybody is curious about.”
Mike Piazza once hit a Coors Field homer that cleared the center-field bleachers, a shot some say might have flown 560 feet. Trevor Story once short-hopped a shot off the concourse to the parking lot that nearly tagged Carlos González’s Lamborghini. Ryan McMahon on Tuesday hit three home runs in his first three at-bats, all well over 400 feet. Balls can move at Coors Field.
So what might an All-Star Game and Home Run Derby bring this year, 23 years after it was last played in Colorado, and in this, the era of lofty launch angles and adjusted baseballs?