How Do People Actually Catch Baseballs?



I am unsure in case you perceive what number of physicists watch baseball, nevertheless it’s quite a bit. I feel it’s so fashionable with us as a result of there are some very fundamental rules at work. You’ll be able to mannequin the movement of a easy fly ball in your introductory-level class, however you may as well make it far more difficult (and enjoyable). So with that in thoughts, let’s think about the next query: Simply how within the heck does a baseball participant even catch a fly ball?

When a batter hits a ball, it could hurtle by means of the air for 3 to 6 seconds earlier than falling into the outfield. That provides an outfielder solely moments to calculate its touchdown location. Do you assume they crack out a textbook and search for the equations for projectile movement? No method. However the participant is utilizing physics. This is what’s occurring.

Catching a Ball the Physics Textbook Method

First, let me simply discover the touchdown location of a ball utilizing physics. After that, I’ll remedy this drawback the way in which a participant would possibly do it in an precise recreation.

However let’s make two assumptions about this ball. First, there will probably be no air resistance on it. (It can simply be simpler to calculate with out air resistance. Additionally, in lots of instances with low ball speeds, this approximation is pretty legit.) Second, I will make this two-dimensional (as a substitute of 3D). The ball goes to be launched in a line straight in the direction of the participant within the outfield. That method, I haven’t got to fret in regards to the participant shifting aspect to aspect to be able to catch the ball, simply backwards and forwards.


This drawback has a bunch of variables, so let me begin off with a diagram exhibiting all these portions. I will assume the ball is launched from the origin such that it travels alongside the x-axis.

Illustration: Rhett Allain

There’s a whole lot of stuff right here, so let’s describe every variable.

  • v0 is the beginning velocity of the hit baseball.
  • θ is the launch angle of the ball.
  • xp is the beginning place of the participant (alongside the x-axis).
  • R is the ultimate x-position of the baseball when it returns again to floor degree.
  • Lastly, there may be the vector r. It is a vector from the placement of the participant to the placement of the ball (within the air). The angle θb is the angle of this vector with respect to the bottom.


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