The second that Jim Thome's home run hit somewhere in the center field concourse, the media corps' ears pricked, fingers poised and eyes gathered atop their sockets. They all waited for the same thing - the measurement.
The ears were waiting for the "official" announcement, which happens within a minute or so of a home run. The fingers were poised for the tweets, a new learned behavior. And the eyes waited to roll, a planned journey designed to convey disbelief.
It came as scheduled: 444 ft. The tweets went out, and we all turned to each other, eyeballs askance, sure we had witnessed an injustice. We wanted it to be greater than that. We wanted to be part of "greater than that."
This time, unlike so many others, I think we were. Home runs in ballparks should be a science, but are usually more of an art - and art is not immune to hyperbole. The 444 foot home run was announced to be the 5th longest home run at Target Field, all of which are hit by Jim Thome. The longest - the infamous "Labor Day flagpole" home run, was estimated at 480 feet (though I had trouble confirming if that was the "official" length.)
An important clarification is that nobody says that Labor Day blast traveled 480 feet. Home run distances are always estimated by how long the ball would have traveled if there had been no obstacle. That's where the "art" comes in.
But the site HitTracker.com attempts to use science to determine the ultimate length of those hits. Thome's blast from today isn't loaded yet, but that Labor Day blast came in at only 440 feet.
I'm here to tell you, yesterday's blast was longer than that. After the game, I went out to center field with Joel Anthony from Twins Guest Services. He saw where the ball landed. It found the gap between the decks out there and bounced off of the TV in the picture to the right.
That TV is just above the "State Fare" concessions in center field, the place The Boy insists on going for cheese curds (and where I apparently need to try their new ribs.) It is in the deepest part of the ballpark, above the batting eye.
The dimensions to that part of the ballpark are 403 feet. Then the ball needed to clear a small garden (which is where the pine trees used to reside). Joel and I estimated that garden to be 15-20 feet wide. Then we paced off the width of the concourse, from the batting eye to the TV. It was about 8 paces, or 24 feet. So the ball traveled about 443 feet horizontally.
But that still isn't the story - because it still hit a TV on the second deck.
How high is that above the playing field? The TV is approximately 5 feet higher than the batting eye. The batting eye extends down to the center field wall. It consists of panels that are about four feet wide, and there are 6 and a half of them. And the wall itself in center field is at least eight feet tall. Add that all up, and the ball was still about 40 feet above the ground when it hit the TV.
Major league estimators are supposed to multiply that vertical difference by a factor depending on whether it was a line drive, a normal fly, or a high fly. (Here's the formula.) Assuming this was a high fly, that factor is .6, which means the ball would have traveled an additional 24 feet. Which puts the length of that home run at 467 feet.
We'll see what HitTracker.com says, but it looks like the "eyes" had it. We saw something greater: a true Thome tater.