A Math Lesson For Youth Baseball Players Moving Up To The Big Field

Math is a requirement for school age children to graduate and matriculate from grade to grade. Simple math like arithmetic involves addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication. Geometry deals with points, lines, angles, and how they affect the arrangement of “stuff.” Problem solving, word problems, and other algebraic equations help us understand how things work, why something is stronger than another item, how fast something goes, how much force you need to do something. Higher levels of math like calculus and statistics then deal with how all the basic functions of math can explain and even predict how something will work or function.

If I had a nickel for every time my kids asked “when am I ever going to use this math problem?”, I would be a very happy man. And guess what, I am a very happy man. Math is used in all facets of sports, like baseball. We live in an era of launch angles and exit velocities and bat speeds. You can calculate your batting average by dividing the number hits you have recorded by the number at bats you have. 4 hits out of 10 at bats is a .400 average. And even the most basic math, subtraction, can be used to identify a skill set you need to work on in your upcoming indoor training season.

Courtesy of http://www.littleleague.org

Subtract 127 – 84 and what do you get? The distance you must now overcome as a catcher to throw out a runner attempting to steal second base. Actually with fractions added, you are looking at a difference of 42.575 feet. The same can be said if you are a third baseman who now needs to throw out a base runner heading to first base. In youth baseball, minor leagues, or whatever your league calls it, a standard distance from home to second base as well as third base to first base is 84 feet, 10 inches. In 50/70 conversion fields, that distance goes to 99 feet. On the big field (juniors/seniors, Babe Ruth, Interscholastic, etc.) the distance is 127 feet, 3 3/8 inches. Think about that for a moment. You now have to throw the baseball 42 feet longer than you did last season to potentially record an out. How do you accomplish this? That is where geometry comes in – arm speed velocity, angle of release point, angle of your throw must match the line to travel up to or greater than 127 feet.

50/70 Field dimensions for home to second base, courtesy of http://www.littleleague.org
Courtesy of http://www.littleleague.org

60 feet 6 inches minus 46 feet = 13 feet 6 inches, the distance youth pitchers must adjust to as they progress from the smaller fields. 90 feet minus 60 feet = 30 feet more you have to run from base to base. An inside the park home run on a small field is a total distance of 240 feet. On the big field, that puts you roughly between second and third base. You play right field on a small field and you are retrieving a baseball hit to the fence, which is typically about 200 feet from home plate. On the big fields, right field could be farther, more like 300 feet plus. You will need to make up 100 feet to throw a runner out at second, third, or even home plate. How do you accomplish all of this? Geometry, problem solving, angles, lines, and yes a bunch of math.

This off season, think about the math needed to improve your skills on the field. Are you a pitcher moving from 46 feet to 60 feet 6 inches? If so, you need to understand that your arm velocity and your release angles need to adjust to throw strikes some 14 feet farther back now. Are you a catcher who threw everyone out in Districts 12U last summer? Well, you now have another 42 feet to make up to keep your defensive wizardry up to par. Third basemen, shortstops now have to throw a ridiculous 42 feet farther or more to get runners out at first base. Base runners need to leg out another 30 feet to first base for that bunt single to be a hit, not an out. If you understand the math and what you are up against in moving up to the big field(s), you can start making the adjustments with your parents, coaches, mentors in the indoor training season. I have always been a huge fan of math and how it applies to everyday life and sports like baseball.

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