Play ball: Professor pitches science of baseball to students
March 17, 2008
from Purdue News Service
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The science of baseball can throw fans a curveball, says a Purdue University expert.
"What we think we see when watching baseball is not always what is really happening," says Howard N. Zelaznik, professor of health and kinesiology who is teaching "The Science of Baseball" this spring. "For example, it's pretty clear that batters don't see the ball hit the bat. Players are told to watch the ball hit the bat because it helps keep their head down and they maintain proper body mechanics.
"If they didn't try to keep their 'eye on the ball,' then most likely they would turn their head too soon. But, watching a fastball is just like watching a car at the Indy 500. When the car is right next to you, your eyes can't track it.
Zelaznik, an expert in human motor control, is teaching 39 movement and sport science majors the science of hitting and ball flight, even the illusion that the fastball rises. The class also focuses on understanding the mind of the hitter based on cognitive and sports psychology.
"One thing that surprised most students is what happens when an outfielder catches a baseball," Zelaznik says. "For example, many fans assume when a player catches a ball, that the fielder is computing the flight of the ball. Instead the player is really moving to control his perception of the ball."
Zelaznik, the director of Purdue's Motor Behavior and Control Laboratory, says there are a variety of videos about the science of baseball, as well as a Web site from NASA: http://www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/K-12/baseball/index.html.
Writer: Amy Patterson Neubert, (765) 494-9723, email@example.com
Source: Howard Zelaznik, (765) 494-5601, firstname.lastname@example.org
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; email@example.com