Unit 7: Social Studies Connection

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Perfect Pitch

Baseball is a competition between a pitcher and batter. The batter tries to hit the ball as hard as he or she can, hopefully out of the ballpark. The pitcher tries to throw the ball with enough precision and speed to prevent the batter from hitting it. So basically, the pitcher's job is to make the batter's job more difficult.

A good pitcher has an arsenal of pitches to choose from. The most common pitches thrown are the fastball, the curveball, the slider, and the knuckleball. Some pitchers specialize in certain types of pitches. Each pitch takes years for a player to master. And many pitches, including the curveball and slider, are not recommended for younger players.

The Fastball

The fastball is exactly what it sounds like: a ball thrown fast. Very fast. The pitcher winds up to throw a fastball, which gives the ball more speed. If the pitcher were to stand still before throwing the ball, the ball would have less momentum, and would not have much speed. The longer a ball travels in a pitcher's hand before it is released, the more speed it will have. For this reason, tall pitchers often throw the best fastballs.

The best way for a pitcher to throw a fastball is to throw the ball overhand with the index and middle fingers placed together on the seam of the ball. This moves the ball straight ahead toward home plate, without any curve. Some top pitchers are able to throw fastballs that move at a speed of 90 to 100 miles per hour. No one wants to get hit by one of these pitches!

The Curveball

If the pitcher puts some spin on the ball, he can throw a pitch that doesn't move in a perfectly straight direction. One of the most common of these throws is the curveball. To throw a curveball, the pitcher moves his wrist down and to the side before releasing it, in order to give the ball a spin.

If a curveball is thrown correctly, the ball will drop down and away from the batter just as the batter is swinging. You can see why the curveball is a favorite for pitchers, and why most batters are not fans of the curveball.

The Slider

One of the most difficult pitches for batters is the slider, which is a type of curveball. The slider is thrown much like the curveball, but the ball is thrown harder, and the pitcher's wrist is held at a different angle.

When a slider is thrown, the ball curves downward as it reaches the batter. The results are usually not good for the batter. When batters are pitched sliders, they hit either a pop-up or a ground ball, which most often is an easy out.

The Knuckleball

The knuckleball is one of the hardest pitches to learn and master. The knuckleball is not thrown very fast, but its power is not in its speed. The pitcher throws the ball with no spin to it, so that the ball rotates very little before crossing the plate. When the knuckleball approaches the batter, it moves in unpredictable directions, making it one of the most difficult pitches to hit.

Now that you know your pitches, perhaps you'll be better prepared for your next baseball game. As the umpire says, play ball!

Word Wise

precision:
State of being exactly correct or accurate: The artist used a very thin brush to paint the portrait with precision.

arsenal:
A supply or store: Mr. Cronin's large family keeps an arsenal of food in their pantry.

momentum:
A force that keeps an object moving in a direction, once it is already moving in that direction: The wagon's momentum made it difficult to come to a full stop.

rotate:
To spin on an axis: The earth rotates once every 24 hours.

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Activity

The title of the article, “Perfect Pitch”, is what is known as a play on words. Perfect pitch is a term used by musicians. It describes the ability to recognize a musical note with perfect accuracy. But in this article, it is describing a pitch that is thrown by a baseball player. It works because the word “pitch” has two meanings. The writer was playing with the double meaning.

“Catch” is another baseball word with two meanings. Write a play on words using the word catch.

Data Hunt

Perfect Pitch Quiz
Just as pitchers specialize in certain types of pitches, batters also master hitting certain pitches. Answer questions about batters and hitters in this quiz.