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Updated: May 24, 2010, 2:03 AM ET

Chase Field the new baseball launching pad

By Steve Berthiaume
ESPN
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If you're a power hitter scanning the new PED-free baseball landscape, then heed these words: GET THEE TO CHASE FIELD! The baseball FLIES in Arizona. It's not just the volume of home runs being hit there. You can almost hear the sound of a rocket launch or a jet plane takeoff as the baseball soars out to center field. Coors Field, Rangers Ballpark and even Wrigley Field and Fenway Park all have been surpassed among baseball's primary homer havens. Next time you watch a Diamondbacks home game, watch the baseball carry; it's remarkable.

The Blue Jays, who now lead the majors with 76 home runs this season, just played a series at Arizona. In three games at Chase Field, Toronto had 36 hits, including 10 homers. Edwin Encarnacion hit three home runs in the first game of the series, then homered Saturday and again on Sunday. Encarnacion just came off the disabled list May 17 but showed up at Chase Field and homered five times in three games. The Jays' Jose Bautista hit home runs on Friday and Sunday, and you'd have thought the balls had been shot by one of those air guns that mascots use to launch T-shirts into the stands. Bautista's homer in Sunday's game was his 14th of the season (tying him with Paul Konerko for most in the majors) and it FLEW 440 feet. Here's the scary part: Bautista's 440-foot shot doesn't even qualify him for Chase Field's top five this season, and remember, it's only May 24.

Heading into Monday's schedule, there have been 76 home runs hit at Chase Field this season. That's 13 more than Great American Ball Park or Rangers Ballpark, which are tied for second. The park with the longest average distance per home run? Chase Field at just over 411 feet per homer. Yup. Chase Field is tops for both home run frequency and distance, so what's the deal?

Elevation seems to be a primary reason. (Some would argue it's the Diamondbacks' struggling bullpen. Those people would have a point, too.) According to a recent study conducted by the Department of Economics at Middlebury College, three big league ballparks stand at elevations higher than 1,000 feet. Coors Field is up there at 5,280 feet, followed by Chase Field at 1,090 feet and Turner Field at 1,050 feet. Which three ballparks have the longest average distances per home run this season? In order: Chase Field, Coors Field, Turner Field.

Point is, we're told baseball these days is a cleaner game, and there's no question it's the better for it. The fundamentals matter again. The game is back to being about pitching, defense and baserunning, all that it's supposed to be. (The basketball equivalent would be abolishing the 3-point line. That would be great: passing, rebounding and the 15-foot jump shot would matter again. Not just dunks and obscene college offenses that shoot 50 3s a game, but that's for another page on this site.) However, it's still nice to see the occasional Dave Kingman-type launch of some moon shots, and there's no better launching pad in the game right now than Arizona's Chase Field.

Steve Berthiaume is a host for "Baseball Tonight."

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Monday's Best Matchups

Red Sox at Rays, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN

After a productive final two days in Philadelphia -- Daisuke Matsuzaka nearly threw a no-hitter and the Red Sox beat up Roy Halladay -- Boston heads off to play baseball's best. Wade Davis pitched well in his five innings of a no-decision earlier this year against Boston. Clay Buchholz did not give up an earned run -- four unearned did cross -- in a loss against the Rays on April 17.


White Sox at Indians, 7:05 p.m. ET

After opening the year 3-0, John Danks has lost each of his past three starts. It hasn't been entirely his fault, considering the White Sox's offense has scored a total of four runs in those three outings. Justin Masterson (0-4, 5.65 ERA) still is searching for that first victory.


Pirates at Reds, 7:10 p.m. ET

The Reds' start to the season has been a surprise. What makes it even more surprising is they are 25-19 and just a half-game out of first without much help from Opening Day starter Aaron Harang. The righty is 2-5 with a 6.02 ERA and has gone longer than six innings just twice all year.

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