PHYSICS ACTIVITY
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Batting Slump

Purpose

To analyze the relationship between a how a bat strikes a baseball and the flight of the ball then use what you discover to provided a slumping hitter with advice to bring him out of a slump.

Materials

Ichiro Suzuki
Ichiro Suzuki Courtesy USA Today

The Story
In his first two seasons playing Major League Baseball for the Seattle Mariners, Ichiro Suzuki had 450 base hits. That many hits in the first two seasons is a Major League record.

But in his third season, things changed! Line drives that used to zip through the infield became towering shots right into the waiting gloves of outfielders. Instead of hitting .404, Ichiro's average dropped to .243.

This is what we call a slump!

As the Mariners' batting coach it is your job to help your batters climb out of a slump when it happens. What could be causing line drives to turn into towering fly balls? Could it be that the physics of the swing are all wrong?

Procedure

Recruit a group of kids to help you. Using the materials listed above, videotape each kid hitting a baseball from a batting tee. Film from the side that has the best view of the bat making contact with the ball.

Study the videotape. Look for a relationship between the spot on the ball that the bat strikes and how the ball travels after it is hit.

Conclusion

The Mariner's are on a long road trip. Back at the training facility you decide to produce a video to send to Suzuki. The video should include visual examples and a detailed explanation of what Ichiro might be doing wrong with his swing and what he needs to do to get back on track.

This activity was developed by the Event-Based Science Institute with generous support from the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation. A teacher version of this and all other baseball/physics activities is available free from the EBS Institute. This activity was written by, Scott Durbin, a science teacher at Robert Frost Middle School, Rockville, MD.

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