Too Cold to Play Baseball


To determine whether or not temperature changes the distance a baseball can be hit.


Wrigley Field
Wrigley Field Chicago

The Story
The Colorado Rockies baseball team has a problem. Baseballs dry out and shrink in the dry air of the mile-high Denver climate. The smaller, lighter baseballs tend to fly farther. Because they dry out, they also become slicker and harder for pitchers to grip. These two factors work together to cause poorer pitching and better batting in Coors Field.

To solve the problem, the Rockies are storing their baseballs in a humidor---a box that keeps the balls from drying out. It's not always working, but the Rockies are satisfied. Baseballs in Denver are now within specifications.

But factors besides humidity may change a baseball and make it perform differently.

You are a sports reporter for the home TV station of the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs manager has asked you to find out if early in the season, when it can still be very cold in Chicago, the cold has an effect on how far baseballs travel. If you find out that the baseballs do not travel as far when they are cold, the team plans to buy a warming box to keep the balls at a constant 75 degrees F (23.9 degrees C) before they are used.


Your first job is to design an experiment to answer the question. Brainstorm ideas for what you can do.


After you have gathered the data and know whether or not cold is affecting the flight of a baseball, plan how you will present this on the evening news. Prepare a script with two columns. Title the left-hand column "SAY" and the right-hand column "SHOW." Plan a spot that has ten different shots. Make sure that the script clearly shows the results of the experiment and explains why the results turned out the way they did. Also include any implications for baseball in Chicago.




Reporter: Good evening baseball fans. You won't believe what we've been doing today?

Close-up - Face of reporter

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 Quinn Connors, Jasmine Dyba and Amy Zimmermann - students at Eastern Middle School, Silver Spring, MD with the assistance of their science teacher, Ken Halperin. Suggestions from students Jason Meer and Isaac Arnsdorf were also incorporated.

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