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Quality At-Bats with USD Coach Brad Marcelino

Quality At-Bats with USD Coach Brad Marcelino

As the Assistant Baseball Coach at the University of San Diego and a longtime director of youth baseball development, Brad Marcelino is making his mark on both the Southern California and national baseball scenes.

This spring is Marcelino’s sixth season with the 19th ranked Toreros, where he serves as the Hitting Coach, Outfield Coach, and Base Running Coach. From 2013 through 2015, Marcelino coached three consecutive first round MLB Draft picks – including Chicago Cubs All-Star and World Series Champion Kris Bryant.

This past summer, Marcelino was also selected to coach the USA Baseball 14-Under Southwest Region team in the National Teams Identification Series (NTIS) in Cary, NC. Marcelino has been heavily involved in youth development and is the founder of the North County (San Diego) Mavericks high school/college development program, which focuses on development of academics, character, and baseball skills.

Blast Baseball recently sat down with Marcelino to talk about training and how to improve the mental and physical skills necessary for hitters to have quality at-bats.

A MENTAL EDGE

Marcelino’s training methods emphasize developing and fine-tuning a player’s mental approach to the game. Since so much of a player’s performance on the field and in the batter’s box involves extreme focus and discipline, this emphasis helps lay the groundwork for success.

“We talk a lot about the mental side of the game, having a mental edge and performing at the time when it matters most,” said Marcelino. “That’s one of the big things that we do, and I think it really takes our players to the next level.”

Marcelino used his former college pupil, current World Series Hero & NL MVP Kris Bryant, as an example of mental preparation translating to big-time success on the field and at the plate.

“Kris Bryant, and some of these other guys who have been high-round draft picks, they really buy into the mental game,” said Marcelino. “At USD, that consists of visualization for the first 10 minutes of practice, where we take our players through certain aspects of practice and their performance, and just their life. They’re much more productive at practice after we take the time to do that.”

MIND OVER BATTING AVERAGE

Marcelino believes that while starting each practice with mental preparation and visualization is important, so is being willing to accept failure – at least by the conventional measure of success vs. failure, a hitter’s batting average. Baseball is not an easy sport. Understanding and accepting that it’s hard to get hits at any level of the game is key to a strong mental approach.

“We stress from day one that we’re detached from any batting average,” said Marcelino. “You have to understand that you can do everything right in a batter’s box, and on that day, your average could go down. Getting that ingrained into the hitters early, when they first arrive, is huge. You can’t base your success on average. You have to base your success on quality at-bats, which is a big deal for us.”

Just as Marcelino stresses to his hitters not to get caught up in batting averages, he cautions them not to fall prey to the concept of “being in a slump” when a hitter is not putting together quality at-bats.

“I’m the hitting coach, so obviously I hate that term,” said Marcelino. “We make adjustments and we figure out ways to fix things individually, because there’s certain keys to their individual swing that maybe can get them feeling better. A ‘slump’ is when they’re chasing hits. They’re not controlling what they can control. We have four cornerstones that we build for them when they walk to the plate. We want them to control those parts of the game. If they do that and they’re more stable in their thought process, in their preparation, in their visualization before practice or before the game – then the ‘slump’ goes away.”

AN INDIVIDUAL TOUCH

Pairing that strong mental approach with smart adjustments at the plate is where a hitter can find true success – and start to rack up both quality at-bats and hits.

For Marcelino, this is where Blast Baseball 360 plays a role in preparing hitters for success at the plate. He recognizes that hitting is in many ways individualistic – and Blast can help each hitter build and improve their individual swing.

“There are certain checkpoints that have to happen within your swing, and that’s known, but you have your own individual signature on how you hit.”

“We’re trying to teach guys how to hit, not just how to swing,” said Marcelino. “That’s why I think Blast Motion is so important. You can tell a kid something in so many ways, but now with technology and the way it works, the instant feedback that Blast gives is what I’m most excited about.”

The cutting-edge and easy-to-use technology helps provide that individual attention and touch, according to Marcelino.

“We’ve been doing some one-on-one work with the guys,” recalled Marcelino. “So we put their cell phone on the tripod, and they go into their Blast Baseball 360 app, get into the video recording and we record five or six swings, and we play it back and break it down.”

“It’s great because you tell them one thing as far as their hand path or the bat path and figure out how to fix their launch angle by getting down on their legs more and things like that. But then when you show them and then you record it again and they see the result – that’s when you can connect the feeling with what they actually did and that objective feedback. Each guy has something that is going to click different for him. So, each of our guys has an individual hitting plan, which incorporates Blast.”

IMPROVEMENT STARTS WITH MEASUREMENT

Marcelino added that he has even developed his own leaderboard, which he calls the Quality At-Bat World Series. In his eyes, this is more important that leading the team in batting average.

The next step for Marcelino and his coaches is to begin incorporating more and more data from Blast Baseball 360 into these advanced statistics for his leaderboard.

“We’re going to look at their Blast numbers,” explained Marcelino. “We’ll look at what we want from each of them individually – from their target bat path to their target energy transfer to their target swing speed and exit velo. With all the numbers that Blast provides, we know they’re taking a good swing when those are consistent. That’s what we want, number one. We want them to step in with a clear mind and get their best swing on. That’s where Blast makes on impact with our players.”

For updates on the Toreros season, follow them on Twitter @USDbaseball

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Blast Motion Approved for In-Game Use

Blast Motion approved for on-field activities and in-game use

Blast Technology Approved for In-Game Use
With the baseball season opening day upon us and the recent launch of the Blast Baseball 360 next gen app, it’s time to play ball! In 2016, Blast became the Official Bat Sensor Technology of Major League Baseball and for the 2017 season, we have been approved for in-game use in the complex leagues, which are the Gulf Coast League and the Arizona Summer Leagues (Minor League). The players assigned to this level are first-year players who are drafted into the MLB. As in 2016, we have also received approval for on-field use.

MLB, Teams, and Players Benefit from Blast Sensor Data
Blast has developed the most consistent and accurate swing analysis sensor in the market. Through an independent study completed by the Center for Human Performance, the Blast sensor delivered industry-leading results. And, when you’re working with the top athletes in Baseball, accuracy maters. (Center for Human Performance case study) By using bat sensor technology in-game, players, coaches, and front office personal will be able to gain new insights into recently drafted player performance through objective data (metrics). Armed with this data, MLB teams can create player profile baselines and begin to see how a player’s performance changes between practice and in-game situations. This also allows the teams to make validated comparisons between the rookies and their franchise players. Teams can start correlating various factors that can affect a player’s swing including stress, home / away field, weather, and other variables.

With teams using Blast sensor data to make better draft decisions at the amateur and now, rookie level, it’s clear Blast technology is changing how a new generation of players are being developed, assessed, and recruited, creating the standard for performance in the big leagues.

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The Next Generation of Blast Baseball 360

At Blast, we know the daily drive to improve starts with the right tools. We recently launched the next generation Blast Baseball 360 app (available in the App Store and Google Play), giving players and coaches a new toolkit to train smarter and get better.

The update brings a very different look and feel to the app. Our own Armando Santana, Director of Product Management, and Julia Putzeys, Product Manager, provide an in-depth look at the new features and functionalities, along with the inspiration behind the update.

Experience the Difference

After extensive research, feedback, and testing to see what players and coaches wanted out of Baseball 360, our team found several ways to improve the overall experience.

“We have an amazing technology in our sensor, and it’s something that’s super valuable to the people who are using it to train and be better in their sport,”said Putzeys. “But really, that’s not helpful to them unless they have an app that goes with it that is just as great. It needs to be easy to use and perfectly showcase all the functionality the sensor has, and we think that’s what we’re bringing to our customers with the new generation of our app.”

From a fresh new user interface to enhanced ease-of-use to smarter, faster technology, the update was designed with coaches and hitters in mind, for a quicker path to improvement.

“With our new Baseball 360 app, you’re going to see some general improvements of the interface,” explained Santana. “You’re going to be able to find things easier. You’re going to be able to see where your swings are, where your videos are, where your metrics are, and how you’re progressing. The overall flow fits with the way you’re going to be able to digest this information and train faster.”

From research and development to planning and implementation, many people and perspectives were involved in the new Blast Baseball 360 app.

“Early on, we spent a lot of time talking to our users and our ambassadors,” said Santana. “We have designers on staff who really take that feedback in, and we have these collaborative design sessions. We whiteboard ideas. We work together, then we work with engineering, who is coming up with solutions to those problems that our customers are sharing. They’re figuring out ways we can make this app faster, sync with the cloud, and provide video capabilities that are differentiating features in our Baseball 360 app.”

Users Played a Big Role

In addition to our in-house team, our loyal user base, along with our valued Blast Coaches played an important role in the introduction of this next phase of Baseball 360 technology.

“Our users give us feedback on a daily-basis about how they’re experiencing the product, what they like about it, and also what they don’t like about it,” explained Putzeys. “So we really take that to heart and work with our users. We get feedback from all different kinds of channels – through our customer support team and on the app stores. We also bring a lot of users and ambassadors into our lab and we work with them on the product, and we come up with ideas from there and ways that it can improve based on how they use it.”

“We started with the customer first, and we realized that we needed to build something that worked the way they work,” added Santana. “So we spent a lot of time talking to our ambassadors and pro users, and really understanding how they’re using Blast Baseball today.”

Two Audiences, One Solution

When designing and implementing this update, it was important to keep two distinct audiences in mind:

Baseball and softball hitters of all levels. And their coaches and coaching academies. In the end, we came up with one solution to meet the needs of both groups.

“We’re targeting two different people,” explained Putzeys. “The first is a player that just wants to get better. So we want to provide them with all the tools they need to train on their own, including drills, ideas, and content from our ambassadors to help them get better, then teach them how to use the Blast sensor and our application to train on their own.

“But we’re also targeting coaches who have a team of players that may be using a sensor that they share among them – or each player on the team might have a sensor and the coach is running a practice while using our solution with all of their team members. It’s a very different use case, but I think a lot of times they’re looking for the same results. So, we focused on those main users and optimize a solution that would work for both of them.”

“We wanted to build this app for anybody who wants to improve their swing,” added Santana, who is also an active coach himself. “So the Baseball 360 app needs to be really easy to use, whether it’s the youth coach who is just learning about Blast Baseball and really want to improve a youth player, all the way up to the pro player who’s really trying to take their game to the next level. And it needs to satisfy everybody in between.”

A Bold New UI

A big part of meeting those needs lay in developing an intuitive new user interface – or UI, for short. This revamped UI needed to be not only easier to use, but more enjoyable to interact with.

“We have this amazing solution and we want to have an app that really helps our users use our sensor,” said Putzeys. “We want our app to be fun to use and easy to use, where it makes someone want to pick it up every day and train with it. We want to provide new content for our users and we want to provide an ultimate training experience.”

Training Center + Blast Connect

One of the major improvements is the development of the Training Center, an online and in-app repository for videos and other content that focuses on training and interactive drills. Some of those drills are even offered by luminaries like Blast Baseball Athlete, and Houstons Astros shortstop, Carlos Correa.

The Training Center resides in the main bottom navigation of the new Blast Baseball 360 app – making it easily accessible from anywhere in the app.

“We’ve gotten some feedback on our new training center, which provides something that users have really been asking for,” explained Putzeys. “It’s a place to learn how to get better, and also learn how to use our sensor and integrate it into their training and really get the most out of it. This way, they can make sure they’re using the sensor the way it should be used, and improving on all the metrics we measure. It outlines each metric, along with ways to improve on each.”

This new focus on content-rich training is also fully integrated into Blast Connect, to create the total improvement solution.

“If you’re using the full solution, you get all your workouts and practices from your coach, you can access them on your mobile phone, and you can complete the workouts and practices while you’re on the go” said Putzeys.

“With the new Blast Baseball 360 app, coaches and academies can expect some improvements on how we have integrated with Blast Connect,” said Santana. “Coaches can capture swings and videos and sync that to the cloud, then they can go to Blast Connect and really analyze that information. One of our goals with this new app is to empower athletes to improve and just work smarter. And as they work smarter, they are going to master the game and ultimately enjoy the game more.”

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Attacking Bat Path Angle with John Peabody

We recently sat down with  John Peabody to talk about bat path angle, its importance to successful hitting, and much more.

As a former minor league baseball player and the current director of Peabody Baseball, John Peabody is a highly respected and sought-after hitting coach. Peabody works with hitters of all ages and levels – from youth baseball to the college ranks, all the way up to the top pick of the 2016 MLB Draft, Mickey Moniak.

Bat path angle
BlastMotion recently sat down with John Peabody to talk about bat path angle, its importance to successful hitting, and much more.

The San Diego-based Peabody has also teamed up with Blast to serve as a Baseball 360 Ambassador. Peabody is a big believer in Blast’s technology and regularly utilizes Baseball 360 in his training sessions.

Getting on Plane.

Baseball today is awash in statistics and metrics. But there’s one metric that Peabody believes is more important than the others. That metric? Bat path angle – also known as “attack angle.”

“Bat path angle is the angle that you’re attacking the ball at with your barrel, pre-contact,” explained Peabody. “For me, when it comes to Blast Motion, it’s ultimately the most important metric that they measure. I want to know if my guys are swinging up, because I know if I can get a guy to hit the middle of the ball – that he’s going to give himself a chance to hit something hard in the air; hit a line drive.”

“When you’re swinging down on the ball, you’re only on the plane of the pitch for so long. Beside the fact that you’re swinging down on it, the time that you’re in the zone isn’t long. So, your timing has to be that much better (to make up for it). You have to be that much better at hitting the perfect part of the ball with that kind of downward swing. Working slightly up promotes all those things, and gives yourself more opportunity for successful contact.”

Peabody is quick to stress that bat path angle is not “the end all-be all” when it comes to hitting success, but was equally eager to emphasize its importance.

“Making contact with the right part of the bat on the right part of the ball is the other main aspect of it, but the attack angle is huge,” said Peabody. “Being able to be in the zone a little bit longer, whether that be earlier in the swing or later in the swing – makes it so you don’t have to be perfect. You can be a little off, but make contact because you’re still on plane and you’re still in the zone.”

Simple Fixes.

So how exactly does a hitter create a better bat path angle?

“It’s not always that easy,” explained Peabody.

“Sometimes it’s a simple fix, just tell a guy to try to hit a ball a little bit higher than what he’s trying to do. And to do that, most of the time, they’re going to figure out how to get the barrel working slightly up, to make the ball go a little bit higher. There are things that we try to do, as far as getting your top hand under the bat, or getting your elbow under the barrel. Mechanics that we talk about to help get behind the ball or to get on the plane a little bit early – so we can make sure that we’re giving ourselves a chance to work level to slightly up, depending on the pitch location.”

Mechanics and Metrics.

In addition to making adjustments to hitting mechanics, cutting-edge technology is an invaluable tool. By recording and clipping video and measuring metrics like swing speed, time to contact, power and bat path angle, Baseball 360 helps hitters train smarter and get better. It also empowers their coaches, like Peabody, to make changes to attack angles that are less than ideal.

“It helps players and coaches, because a lot of the times, we can’t see that part of the swing,” explained Peabody. “When I’m throwing live to my hitters or I’m working in front of them, I know I can’t see that – especially when you’re working with guys that are swinging the bat from 80-85 miles an hour.

Baseball 360 also helps hitters themselves understand what, where and how they can make improvements to their swing.

“It gives them factual data to whether they are doing what they want to do,” said Peabody. “And I think that’s the bottom line. We talk about wanting to swing slightly up. Well, now you have something that tells you whether you are doing it or not. So gauging the metrics of what’s happening, I think is a good thing. It can be taken too far, but in Blast’s case, to be able to have the sensor tell you whether you are doing it or not, to me, only makes sense to use as a player or to train your players with if you’re a coach or a parent.”

Think Positive.

In addition to utilizing Baseball 360, Peabody runs his players through a variety of drills and exercises during his training sessions.

“Sometimes it takes some time to do these things, but I’ll do anything from high-tee drills to low-tee drills, use pads to squeeze between your bicep and your forearm to help the barrel get flat and get in the zone earlier and stay through the zone a little bit longer.”

Peabody does his best to tailor each set of drills to specific hitters, including when it comes to bat path angle.

“There are some big leaguers that I’m sure have negative attack angles that are successful, but I know the majority of guys don’t. I think when you look at the group of guys that are really the most consistent hitters – and ultimately the best hitters in the world – they’re using their swing to get on base, and you’re going to see those guys with positive attack angles.”

“Most of the guys that I run into that are “negative” guys are trying to figure out how to make it positive,” said Peabody. “You should be swinging slightly up, but swinging slightly up is not the end-all, be-all to a line drive. There’s an art to being on time. There’s an art to hitting the bottom middle of the ball with the middle top of the bat. All those things combined with working slightly up will equal a good hitter.”

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Blast Baseball 360 Is The Most Accurate Baseball Sensor On The Market

Blast Motion recently took part in a third-party validation test to verify its accuracy against the top two baseball swing sensor competitors on the market: Diamond Kinetics and Zepp. The results from The Center for Human Performance are in. And they confirm the earlier findings:

• Blast’s swing sensor is the most accurate baseball sensor on the market.
• Dynamic calibration makes the Blast sensor much easier to use in an athlete’s natural environment than any available alternative.

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Blast Motion is the most accurate sensor on the market.
Blast Motion is the most accurate sensor on the market.

About the Center for Human Performance

The Center for Human Performance is a state-of-the-art motion analysis institution based in San Diego, CA. With expertise in kinesiology, biomechanics, engineering, athletic training, and orthopedics, the Center offers a comprehensive suite of sports science and motion-capture services – all backed by extensive experience and clinical research. Center Director Arnel Aguinaldo also serves as Assistant Professor, Kinesiology at Point Loma Nazarene University and VP of Applications Development for Motion Analysis Corporation.

An Accurate Baseball Sensor? The Swing Sensor Comparison Study

Led by Aguinaldo, the study compared the baseball swing sensor and analyzer of Blast to those manufactured by chief competitors Diamond Kinetics and Zepp. Fifteen male college and minor league baseball players over the age of 17 swung a 33-inch, 30-ounce baseball bat equipped with four reflective markers, allowing for 3D motion analysis of the bat during each swing at a sampling rate of 300 Hz. Each of the three swing sensors was attached to the bat in random order and the 15 subjects all hit a baseball off a tee 10 times with each sensor – while marker locations were captured from the motion-capture system.

All trials were performed inside a 100-by-15-foot enclosed batting cage. Baseball swing data was recorded from each sensor using each respective sensor’s mobile apps – then compared to Motion Analysis MoCap camera 3D motion-capture data to measure the error in swing speed (i.e. degree of accuracy).

Baseball Bat Swing Sensor Validation

An Accurate Baseball Sensor Defined: About the Test Results

Blast consistently outperformed its competition in several areas of the swing sensor study the most important being accuracy and ease of use.

Accuracy: When it comes to swing sensors, accuracy is the name of the game. It’s the key metric in play, and was the main focus of this study. Blast’s swing sensor exhibited the lowest margin of error – and was significantly more accurate than Zepp’s sensor. Blast’s standard deviation was 3 mph, compared to 5 mph for Diamond Kinetics and 7 mph for Zepp.

Setup time: Setup time for Blast’s sensor was a mere 90 seconds, on average. Diamond Kinetics’ sensor setup, on the other hand, took anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes, due to more involved calibration procedures. Talk about a big difference.

Blast Technology Key Differentiators accurate baseball sensor

Conclusion

Leading-edge accuracy, paired with the invaluable ability to not disrupt the natural routine of athletes and coaches, makes Blast the best swing sensor solution available to hitters on the market today.

Learn more about Blast Baseball 360 today.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Source: The Center for Human Performance, August 2016.

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How a Little Science Goes a Long Way in Baseball

baseball

Barry Bonds’ 71 home runs in a single season or Clayton Kershaw’s ability to strike out 301 batters in one year may seem like magic to most of us.

While we enjoy the sense of wonder we feel witnessing these talents, not everyone is satisfied to simply sit back in astonishment. Understanding the science behind baseball’s greatest players and their feats adds to our enjoyment of the game. Read through these points to gain a deeper appreciation of how players leverage the laws of physics to optimize their performance and wow fans.

Baseball & the Science Behind Energy Transfer

Each spring when training begins, reporters across the country ask University of Illinois physics professor Dr. Nathan to discuss the science of baseball. The most common questions include: How can a ball duck or swerve so dramatically at the last minute? How do batters choose where to put the ball?

But is Dr. Nathan a sports physicist? Not by a long shot.

Dr. Nathan has spent his career studying the collision of sub-atomic particles. Like baseballs, these particles rotate on an axis at varying speeds and with varying rotations. Interestingly enough, his findings about sub-atomic particles relate directly to the science of baseball. His answers to the following questions make sense and make baseball far more calculated and complex than it can appear.

Why Is the Bat’s Sweet Spot So Important?

Players share that when the ball hits the sweet spot on the bat, it feels awesome, powerful, even “true.” From their experience and from their physical sensations in their hands, they know a ball hit on the sweet spot has the greatest chance of going far and in the intended direction.

Physics makes the thrill of the sweet spot clear. First, understand that the bat is not a rigid object. Watch any slow-motion replay of a great hit. If the ball connects on the sweet spot there isn’t much bat movement. If the ball hits above or below the sweet spot, the bat vibrates, even to the point of hurting the player’s hands.

The energy and momentum of the ball transfers to the bat, causing a violent collision. If it hits where the bat can best deflect the energy, that energy transfers back to the ball, sending it in the opposite direction with the most force. If the ball hits higher or lower than the sweet spot, much of its energy transfers to the bat. This is what makes the bat vibrate. Therefore, at the sweet spot, you get the most pop.

How Do Pitches Change Course at the Last Minute?

The goal of the batter is to estimate where the ball will be when it crosses home plate. He does this by watching the ball as it leaves the pitcher’s hands, but at about twenty feet away the batter can no longer process the movement of the ball. His vision and decision-making capacities cannot keep up with the ball’s speed. Therefore, it’s critical for the pitcher to throw the ball in a way that makes it change course in those last twenty feet.

Pitchers can make the ball drop, rise, and veer left or right by manipulating speed, rotation (spin), and the axis around which the ball spins. Dr. Nathan has determined that, due to the laws of movement and momentum, a small motion put on the ball at the beginning of the throw continues to build throughout the ball’s trajectory. This small movement can be nearly undetectable to the batter. And the more unpredictable a pitcher you are, the more strikes you achieve.

How Do Batters Direct Balls to an Intended Spot on the Field?

It’s not only the pitcher that puts spin on a ball. The batter, too, can make a ball harder to catch. Excellent batters can determine whether to put top spin or bottom spin on a ball, depending on the goal they want to achieve that inning. They put top spin on a ball by hitting it with the top of the bat so that it torques downward. The long grounder causes the infielders and outfielders both to scramble. The batter may choose to put a bottom spin on a ball to force the ball upward for a pop fly or even a foul. The energy from the ball hitting the bat off-center creates friction which can even lead to burning the ball. Even though the ball maintains contains contact with the bat for only one-thousandths of a second, it’s a violent energy transfer.

Why Do Bats Break in the Middle Rather Than Where the Ball Makes Contact?

When the ball hits the bat outside of the sweet spot, the bat bows or vibrates drastically. The outside wood fibers stretch, feeling the most stress where the most dramatic arc occurs — in the middle of the bat. The ball may have initiated the bend, but it didn’t cause the wood fibers to break. It’s the bend, not the ball itself that breaks the bat.

Scientists reverse engineer what baseball players learn from muscle memory and experience. Still, knowing some science of baseball could help both players and fans respect the game and its intricacy.

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Evolution of Sport – Baseball

Baseball has a long history in the United States. The roots of America’s favorite pastime go back to the early 1800s. It was a British game that involved a pitcher throwing a ball at a “striker” swinging a flat stick that inspired the modern-day game of baseball. The rules of baseball were written in 1837 by Alexander Cartwright, a member of the Knickerbocker Club in New York. The rules originally written by Alexander Cartwright lead the way towards making the game we watch today.

baseball

So what has changed in the nearly 130 years since the game of baseball first appeared in American culture? Would we even recognize the original game that Cartwright envisioned if we saw it today? What are some of the biggest changes to the game?

A Tale of Two Leagues

The popularity of baseball in the mid-1800s led to the founding of the National League in 1876. It started with 8 teams. In 1901, the American League was formed with 8 teams of its own. These teams were considered bitter rivals of the National League. Today that dynamic is different. Both leagues are much more competitive within the leagues, and really don’t worry about the other league until the playoffs leading to the World Series begin. There are exceptions to this rule, of course. If you’ve ever been to an inter-league game between the Chicago Cubs and the Chicago White Sox then you know that rivalries between the two leagues DO exist. Still, the National League versus American League mentality is not nearly as bitter as when the American League came on the scene in the early 1900s.

The Ball Itself

The history of the actual baseball is an intriguing one. The baseballs used at today’s games are formed from wool yarn that is covered by cowhide. These balls weigh 5 ounces and have a circumference of nine inches. The modern-day baseball came into play in 1976 when balls were no longer made with horsehide – a change from the beginning of the game. In the early 1900s, balls were also not wound as tightly and were not even weighed. Until 1920, pitchers could modify balls with things like spit or tar to have an even greater advantage over the batter. Those rules changed after batter Ray Chapman died on August 16, 1920 after a spitball thrown by Carl Mays struck him in the head.

The number of balls used in games has also changed. A typical Major League game today uses 60 to 70 balls. When balls end up in the stands, it’s customary for fans to keep them. Umpires pull balls out of play after they’ve been hit or landed in the dirt a few times to maintain the integrity of the ball and keep the game fair. From 1900 to 1919, only  5 or 6 balls were used each game. Now known as the “dead ball era,” this time frame gave pitchers a distinct advantage because batters could not hit the overused balls as far. To put this concept in perspective, during those years the leading home run hitter in a season would have just 14 home runs. In 2014, Nelson Cruz had 40 home runs and was the leader in both leagues. Even a decade earlier that number was even higher, but a crackdown on players using performance enhancing drugs is believed to have led to a drop in home runs in recent years.

The Evolution of the Baseball Bat

The first six years of the National League allowed players to determine what bats they wanted to use. There were no rules on weight, height or even what material the bats were made from. Over the years, the width of the bat became regulated to the 2.61 inches it sits at today. The maximum length for a bat is still the same today as it was in 1869 – 42 inches. Bats that are 33 to 34 inches long are commonly regarded as the standard for today’s players, though. At one time baseball players could use flat-sided bats, but rules changed to make them round in 1893. The types of wood used in bats is also regulated now and players can choose between ash, maple and birch. There isn’t an exact weight requirement but bats cannot be 3.5 ounces lighter than the length of the bat.

Outfield Change

Major League Baseball is the ruling body when it comes to most changes to the game but occasionally players or owners facilitate modifications to how baseball is played. One example is shortening the outfield requirement. Over time, team owners have made the joint decision to shorten outfields to make home runs more common in order to excite fans. Case in point: when Fenway Park opened in 1912, the distance to its outfield fence was 488 feet. Today that distance is just 420 feet. These decisions made owners, fans and batters very happy. Pitchers, understandably, aren’t fond of the smaller outfields, though most modern-day pitchers still have better records than their predecessors.

Introduction of the Designated Hitter

In 1973, the American League debuted a new kind of player: the designated hitter. This position was designed to ramp up excitement at pivotal times in the game. In the first year the designated hitter was used, hits in the American League went up by nearly 2,500. Not only does the designated hitter concept increase excitement in the game itself, but it extends the career lifetimes of batters. It also means that for American League pitchers, there are never any “easy” outs like there still are in the National League when the pitcher is at the plate.

The Introduction of Technology

The introduction of technology has impacted the game of baseball at almost every level. As an example, video technology was first used in baseball in 2002, and is still used to track pitch speed, break, and location. Between 2002 and 2014, video replay outside of the plate was limited, and only calls disputing home runs were evaluated. During the 2014 season, video replay was expanded, and now the manager of each team can issue one video replay challenge per game.

Technology is also used to evaluate umpire calls, and as a result, umpires are becoming more accurate. Prior to the use of Pitch f/x, a camera used to evaluate umpire calls at the plate, umpires had a median accuracy rate of about 83% (in 2007), as of 2013, that accuracy has become closer to 87%.

The sport of baseball continues to evolve with its fan base. Each generation of players is better than the last and they infuse a new energy into the game. Though the logistics and specifications of baseball have changed, the excitement of hearing the crack of a bat on a summer night remains.

What do you think the game will look like in another 100 years?