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BY GEORGE: Baseball and Weather

All outdoor activities are influenced by weather, of course, but baseball is taking the lead in trying to deal with the elements. The Colorado Rockies and Philadelphia Phillies have attracted particular attention to their devotion to design as related to weather patterns.
 
The Rockies (playing at Coors Field) play ball at nearly a mile above sea level (around 5,000 feet). The air density at that altitude is some 15% lower than at sea level, which causes less friction and drag on the ball. As a result, hits can sail farther, and pitchers have a harder time throwing balls with enough spin to produce good curves. As a matter of fact, there have been more runs scored at Coors Field than any other park since it opened in 1995.
 
Operating on the assumption that added moisture will make it easier to throw and harder to hit, the Rockies are storing baseballs in a temperature-controlled environment to keep balls moist. The temperature in the chamber they are using is set at 90 degrees, with a humidity of 40%…about the same as warehouses that store official Major League baseballs.
 
Physicists seem to disagree that the moist ball storage could have a major impact on how far a ball goes. They argue that the weight difference imposed by the moisture would be nearly immeasurable, and doubt that it would have a measurable effect on how far the ball would travel.
 
In Philadelphia, the baseball stadium was constructed in such a way as to maximize wind patterns in the area. Studies were commissioned to precisely determine the daily average wind fields around the area where the stadium is. Using this data, architects are utilized their design, math, and computer skills to integrate the stadium into the environment.
 
Whatever the outcomes, we’re definitely in the first inning, and in the end, it may be impossible to determine precisely whether these design ideas have no impact, a minor impact, or more significant impact on baseball games. In fact, to really get technical, you would also have to measure the ballplayers’ physical adjustments to the configurations of the stadiums and equipment being used to get a more accurate verdict. Come to think of it, you would also need to measure the “mind over matter” and placebo issues as well.
 
Batter up…and put away that calculator before you come to the plate!
 

By: George Elliott

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