The New York Yankees’ Aaron Judge creamed the ball during Major League Baseball’s Home Run Derby, so much so that he actually defied NASA scientists. And no, we are not kidding. According to Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated:
Here’s a story for you to add to the legend that is Aaron Judge. Back when the engineers from Walter P. Moore were designing the retractable roof of Marlins Park they set out to determine how high the roof would have to be so as not to interfere with balls in play. They studied the air density and temperatures of Miami and plugged those variables into equations from NASA. Then they wrote a proprietary algorithm “to generate a volumetric approximation of all the possible batted ball flight paths” and then applied it to their Building Information Modeling to determine the final geometry of the roof structure.
The engineers finally arrived at a height of 210 feet above the ground at its apex (above second base) to make sure no batted ball hit the roof. It tapered to a low of 128 feet above the ground in deep right-centerfield.
The Marlins still were required, however, to submit to MLB a ground rule on how to treat a batted ball that might hit the roof. It was thought of as a formality, seeing how they had hired experts to make sure the roof couldn’t be hit.
The rule they came up with was that any ball bouncing off the roof would be live. Theoretically, an outfielder could catch the ball and the batter would be out.
It wasn’t a formality, though. Judge did Monday what no man had ever done before: He hit a ball off the roof … twice! He did it once in batting practice and again during the home run derby. The ground rule they thought would never come into play was suddenly relevant.
Then Judge showed up and hit the roof with a Home Run Derby blast. The Marlins estimated that it cleared one girder and smacked against another at a height off the ground of about 170 feet in deep left-centerfield. Think about that: about 17 stories high after traveling about 300 feet.
Teams officials suddenly had to dust off the obscure ground rule that had never been used before and had largely been forgotten. The blast was determined not to be a home run, making it the most massive fair ball ever struck that was not a home run.
The moral of the story is this: you can bring together the brainpower of the world’s smartest building engineers, combine it with every bit of local atmospheric data, add to it the computational power of NASA, and you still can’t Judge-proof a ballpark.