Base Running


To compare base-running times of middle school students with the running times of Major League baseball players.


Ty Cobb
Baseball Hall of Fame

The Story
For 73 baseball seasons, the Major League record for the most runs scored was held by Ty Cobb. That record lasted from 1928 to 2001 then along came Rickey Henderson. Henderson was with the San Diego Padres when he added the 2246th run of his career to break Cobb's record.

Rickey Henderson
Rickey Henderson takes off for second base. (Courtesy USA Today)

Henderson's ability to score runs wasn't due to his batting skills. His career batting average was .279. His ability to get walks also helped---he holds the record for the most bases on balls (2179).

What really helped Henderson capture the scoring title was his running ability. Henderson was able to get himself into scoring position. He stretched singles into doubles and stole bases with ease.

Henderson holds records for the most stolen bases in a single season (130) and in a career (1403).

By 2002, when Rickey Henderson retired from baseball, he had added 42 more runs. That brought his total for runs scored to 2288. That is now the record to beat.

Who will be the "Rickey Henderson" of the future? You are a scout for the Boston Red Socks and your assignment is to find as many potential "Rickey Hendersons" as you can.
You plan to start by looking at boys and girls of middle school age. But there is a problem. You can't just time them as they run from home to first. Middle school kids are not as big or as strong as adults are.

Today you will work with a class of middle school students to test a procedure that you think might work.


The distance between the bases on a Major League field is 90 feet. On a Babe Ruth League field the distance is 60 feet.

You have decided to have a whole class of middle school students run 60 feet as fast as they can as you time them. You will record their times in a table or chart.

Next you will use proportional reasoning to calculate an estimate of everyone's time in running the Major League distance of 90 feet. Enter these estimates on the chart.

Calculate the median, and upper and lower quartiles of your data. (A stem-and-leaf plot may be useful here.)

Use a box-and-whisker plot to display the data. Compare your data with average running times of Major League players* and select any boys or girls who show promise as a possible Rickey Henderson of the future.


The team needs a heads up on who has potential for the future. Select the most promising boys and the most promising girls then complete a Major League Baseball Scouting Form that you will submit to your team's Manager (your teacher). Attach your data table to the back of the Form.

*The average running time from home to first for a Major League player depends. For a left-handed batter the average is 4.2 seconds. For a right-hander the average is 4.3 seconds.

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/math activities is available free from the Institute. This Base Running activity was written by Jennifer Barrett, a mathematics teacher at The Harbour School, Annapolis, MD..

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