Geology and baseball – what’s up with that?
Of the 30 years I have been doing geology, this summer I was involved in one of my most rewarding experiences if my career. My wife and I love the Little League World Series held every August in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. I have been treating on going up for a day or so of the youth series, but haven’t made it there yet. A young lady, Eva Catherine, sang the National Anthem at one of the games at the 2011 world series where a record 43,000 people attended. I am fortunate to know Eva Catherine and she put an idea into my head by saying “Why not do a display on how geology and baseball work together?” Um, what a great idea and off I went with thoughts going through my head. I contacted the Little League Museum Curator in Williamsport, proposed the idea to her and submitted a mock layout of the display. They loved it and we went into final production mode and had the display completed by June, in time for their early summer Open House.
The display was divided among three glass cases: 1) rocks and minerals used to construct a stadium, 2) rocks and minerals used to produce the lovely playing fields and equipment, and 3) taking baseball to the Moon and Jupiter. The last case was organized because of my interest in astronomy. With limited space and a low budget to work with, we could not include all of the rocks and minerals involved, but were able to gather the major sources to give the museum visitor a good idea of the variety of rocks and minerals used.
As I teach to students of all ages and have said before in earlier blogs, if youy can’t grow something it has to be taken out of the Earth. Materials used in both the stadiums and fields were composed of rocks and minerals mined from around the United States and even from around the world. All of these resources have come together to form common materials such as steel, aluminum, light bulbs, paper, plastic, rubber and soil mixtures. A collectively effort between geologists locating these rocks and minerals to manufacturing these materials to the engineers who design these superstructures make all of this possible.
To start out, below is a list of minerals and their involvement in making the materials to construct a stadium:
Flourite – a purplish to yellowish mineral used in the manufacturing of aluminum
Native Copper – Often found tarnished green and used in electrical wiring and
Hematite – An ore of iron used in the production of iron for the structural
framework and added strength to aluminum
Quartz – An ore of silica used in lighting and paint
Bauxite – An ore of aluminum used for the production of bleachers, scoreboard,
decorative facing and light poles
Magnetite – An ore of iron used in the production for structural framework
And added strength to aluminum
Wolframite – An ore of tungsten and used in the manufacturing of light bulbs
Concrete – A combination of sand, crushed limestone and limestone aggregate.
Percentage of cement to aggregates depends upon the amount of
Pounds/square inch weight it will hold.
Feldspar – Used in paint and glass
Mica – Used in the manufacturing of paper and plastic
Rock and minerals used in the manufacturing of baseball equipment and field construction and maintenance include the following:
Limestone – A sedimentary rock used for warning tracks along the outfield wall
Talc – Used for the production of rubber and powder
Calcite – Used as a soil conditioner. Sample courtesy of Vulcan Materials,
Chalk – A type of limestone used for the batter’s box lines
Malachite – An ore of copper used for coloration of line paint
Rutile – is an ore of titanium and used in production of bats
Sphalerite – An ore of zinc used in line paint, home plate and pitcher’s rubber
Infield dirt is composed of a clay, silt and sand mixture. A mix is custom-made
for each field based on the area’s climate. Samples were supplied to me
by York Building Products, York.
During the planning stage of the display, Dr. Charles Scharnberger, Professorr Emeritus at Millersville University, brought to my attention about a rubbing mud that is used on the baseballs before a game. I never heard of such a thing, but with the use of the Internet, I quickly learned about “Lena Blackburne Baseball Rubbing Mud.” I had the privilege to speak to company owner Jim Bintliff who filled in some more of the history about the rubbing mud. Apparently, this mud is used in all of the baseball leagues adding grip to the baseball. Jim is the only person who knows where the source of the mud ism which is someplace along the Delaware River. As requested, we are going to do a chemical analysis to determine its chemistry.
Finally, we wanted to compare the size of the baseballs fields on Earth to that on the Moon and Jupiter. The Moon has 1/6th of the gravity of Earth. Thus on the Moon, the baseball would not weigh 5 ounces like here on Earth but about 1 ounce. Also, youy should be able to hit the baseball 6 times further with less gravity. From the Little League fields at Williamsport where the right and left field walls are 225 feet away, on the Moon you would have to hit the ball a distance of 1350 feet for a homerun. It would be difficult to dress for a double-hitter on the Moon. The daytime temperatures are about 450° while the night time temperatures are about -375°.
Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system, has 10 times greater gravity than Earth. The baseball on Jupiter would weigh 3 pounds and a homerun swing on Jupiter would produce a distance of 10 feet. Can you imagine a field having only 10-foot long foul lines?
E Tube and Wire in Shrewsbury, Pennsylvania enjoys challenges for specialty projects. Guess what, Glenn Eyster did not fail. He produced a 1 ounce and a 3 pound baseball for the display. From talking with the museum staff at Williamsport, people enjoyed lifting the different baseballs.