Spring isn't far away and with that comes BASEBALL. So here's a bunch of activities to get you ready to throw out the first ball of the season.
Do Cold Balls Bounce Less?
In 1965, the Detroit Tigers accused the Chicago White Sox of refrigerating the balls used by their pitchers. Should a team care if their batters are pitched ice-cold balls? You can find out.
Slip at least three baseballs (five is even better) into a plastic grocery sack to keep things clean and chill them in a refrigerator for an hour. While you're waiting think about how chilling changes other things, like pancake syrup or butter. Then conduct this test to find out the cold facts.
Work outdoors on a paved area or indoors on a smooth, hard surface (after checking with an adult). Have someone hold a measuring stick straight up with the starting end of the scale on the floor. Drop the balls one at a time from the top of the stick. Be sure someone is watching closely to check exactly how high each ball bounces. Write down each ball's bounce height. Divide by the number of balls tested to find the average bounce height.
Next, spend five minutes warming up the balls using anyway you can think of to do the job safely, such as holding the balls in warm hands or even setting them on a hot water bottle.
Then repeat the bounce test with the warmed balls.
Were the warm balls better bouncers? They should be.
For all those inquiring minds who'd like to know how this historic event effected the game, here's the rest of the story. Before this event, Major League home teams used to supply game balls to the umpire one at a time throughout the game. So the home team's pitchers could be given chilled balls. Worse, according to the White Sox, the Tigers baked the balls given to their team's pitchers. That meant the Tigers were slugging hot balls. To end the squabble, today, Major League rules require the home team to supply all the baseballs to be used during the game two hours before game time.
The Balls Have Changed--But Not Much
In the past 100 years, baseballs have only changed in one way. In 1974, cowhide replaced horsehide as the baseball's covering. Otherwise a baseball is exactly the same, today, as it always was.
There's a cork core inside a rubber ball surrounded by nearly a quarter mile of woolen yarn, a winding of cotton/polyester yarn and a leather jacket sealed with 108 stitches (not one more or one less).
The finished ball must weigh between 5 and 5.25 ounces (141 and 148 grams) and be between 9 and 9.25 inches (22 and 24 centimeters) around.
|This CT-scan lets you peek inside a real baseball to see its parts. |
Don't you love the unique way technology lets us look at things?
Find The Sweet Spot
Have a partner grab the end of the bat's handle and let the bat hang straight down. Use the hammer to tap the bat gently near its fat free end. Then repeat tapping the bat gently at points closer and closer to the handle. Usually striking the bat at the sweet spot will produce a slightly different sound. The person holding the bat should also feel less vibrations when the bat is struck at the sweet spot.
To be precise, measure about six inches (15 centimeters) up from the fat end of the bat. That's where the sweet spot is usually located.
When a Major League player strikes the ball at that
spot, it's not uncommon for the ball to leave the bat
traveling 100 miles (160 kilometers) per hour.
In the past, Major League ballplayers tried to make balls travel farther by swinging heavy bats. Home run hitting king Babe Ruth regularly used a 42 ounce (1,190-gram) bat. Sometimes, he even used one that weighed 52 ounces (1,474 grams).
Today, though, players have decided they can knock balls farther by swinging faster. So they are opting to use lighter bats--ones weighing 32 or even 28 ounces (907 or 793 grams).
Play the Original Game
|This is a photograph of a game of rounders being played in 1913.|
Before there was baseball, people in England played a game called rounders. Follow these directions, to play a game of rounders. Then decide how it's similar to today's game of baseball. And how it's different.
To play rounders, first vote on how many players to have on a team--any number will do. It's not even necessary for the two competing teams to have the same number of players.
Next, vote on whether to have three or five bases. Once outdoors, space out the bases in a circle. They can be as close together or as far apart as you choose. The pitcher will stand in the center of this circle. The batter from the opposite team will stand at one of the bases. The other players on the pitcher's team will be in the field to try and catch the batted ball and tag the batter before he circles the bases.
Now, play ball. Each player gets only one chance at bat. The winning team is the one with the most players to have rounded all the bases. By the way, in the original game, runners weren't tagged out. They had to actually be struck with a ball tossed at them.
You might be interested in knowing that in the very early days of baseball, players were given four strikes before they struck out.
Check out these websites for even more baseball fun.
The Baseball Hall of Fame Great information about the Hall of Fame players, trivia about baseball, and Frequently Asked Questions about the game.
Black Baseball League A place to explore the period of baseball's history when black players had their own league.