With the baseball postseason here, it seems fitting to think about how climate change will affect the national pastime. The early research reveals some interesting results, per the Atlantic, centered mostly on bigger hits in hotter weather:
“If we change the density of the atmosphere near the surface of the earth, that will influence the behavior of objects that are thrown or hit through the atmosphere,” he writes. “That of course includes baseballs. Lower density means less air resistance, which would mean balls would get hit farther.”
In other words, all conditions being equal, a long fly ball that reaches the warning track in April might be a home run on a scorching day in July.
With the heat though will come more exhausted players, which could lead to more injuries and possibly worse defense and fewer stolen base attempts (I’m guessing). Or maybe more limber players from the heat will avoid injury?
But another impact could be related to the emotional side of the game:
Hot weather’s ability to stir up aggressive behavior has been well documented. According to a 2013 study published in the journal Science, “climate’s influence on modern conflict is both substantial and highly statistically significant.” Baseball, it seems, is no exception. As Larrick points out, “When we’re in an agitated state, we’re more ready to see hostility and want to retaliate.”
Basically, we may get more hit batters and fights on the field.
But the article fails to mention possibly the biggest impact: with rising sea levels, coastal cities like Miami may be completely underwater by the end of the century, while ballparks on the water like AT&T Park in San Francisco may be either abandoned or surrounded by sea walls. So a Marlins vs. Giants playoff game may one day be an impossibility, regardless of how the teams play.
More immediately, Major League Baseball may soon face a shortage of ash baseball bats, due to an insect infestation killing off the trees, which could be caused in part by a changing climate.
All in all, some interesting changes to contemplate for baseball fans. Take me out to the ballgame — while you still can.