Karl's Mailbag 4

Q: When did the game of softball start? Arieanna from Minnesota
A: Well Arieanna it was a long time ago! On Thanksgiving Day in 1887, George Hancock used a boxing glove tied together with string as a big ball and a wooden stick as a bat for the very first softball game. About twenty men played in the game held inside in Chicago. The sport sure has come a long way since then!

Q: Who has the record for the most grand slams in one season? Nathan from Ohio
A: Nathan, this one is actually a tie. Don Mattingly hit six grand slams for the New York Yankees in 1987. Mattingly is now the hitting instructor for the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have the most wins in baseball this season. In 2006, Travis Hafner of the Cleveland Indians tied the record with six in a season.

Q: What is the hardest part of staying in shape in the summer? Leah from Virginia
A: Leah thanks for sending in your question. There's no better time to play sports than in the summer! Summer is a perfect time to be active and get your body moving outside. When you are playing in the hot sun, you have to make sure and listen to the signals your body is sending you. Make sure to eat a healthy diet and drink water so that you do not get dehydrated. Have fun outside this summer, and be safe!

Q: I am the pitcher on my softball team. How do I stop myself from getting nervous? Beth from Kansas
A: Great question, Beth! The first thing you should know is that it is OK to be nervous. Even professional athletes get nervous! When you are on the pitcher's mound try taking a deep breath and let the air out slowly. You can also develop a pre-game routine so your mind and body know what to expect every time you are getting ready to pitch. Working hard in practice makes playing in the games easier, so keep it up!

Q: How had the most RBIs last year? Lexi from Georgia
A: Lexi, in the 2008 season, Ryan Howard, the first baseman of the Philadelphia Phillies, had the most RBIs in all of baseball. Ryan hit 146 RBIs and his team won the World Series!

Q: On average, how much impact does a pitcher's speed have on how far the baseball can travel? Glen from Michigan
A: Glen that is a very interesting question. How far a baseball travels depends mostly on the angle which the ball leaves the bat and how fast the ball is hit. The speed of the ball depends on both the speed of the bat and the speed of the pitch. It turns out, once you do some math, that the speed of the pitch is not nearly as important as the speed of the bat. If you improve your bat speed by 10 miles per hour, you can hit the ball about 50 feet farther, so keep working on your hitting in practice!

Q: If you're playing shortstop, and there's a runner on first, and the ball is hit to you, where should you go with it - first or second? Abby from Washington
A: Abby, that is a great question. In most cases, the shortstop should throw to second base to get out the lead runner. You want to get the player who is closest to home plate out first so they can't score a run. It is also usually easier to throw to second, because it is a shorter throw than to first base. Hopefully the second baseman will then have enough time to throw to first base and get the batter out in a double play!

Q: What is the point of the infield fly rule? Nick from New York
A: Nick, first I want to make sure that everyone understands what an infield fly ball means in baseball. An infield fly is a fair ball that is hit into the air that the umpire decides can easily be caught by an infielder. In order for the rule to be in effect, there must be less than two outs, and there must be runners on first and second base, or bases loaded. The umpire will yell "infield fly, batter is out" when the ball is up in the air and the batter is called out. If this rule did not exist, then a fielder could drop the ball on purpose in order to try and make a double play or even a triple play. This makes sure that the game is played fairly.

Q: Which Major League Baseball milestone is the hardest to achieve? Will from Washington
A: Will there are so many records in baseball that would be hard to break. I think the one that may last forever is Hall of Fame pitcher Cy Young's 511 career wins. When Cy Young played a hundred years ago, pitchers often started every third game. Today pitchers usually start about 30 games a season to protect them from injury. A pitcher now would have to win every single one of their starts for more than 16 seasons in order to come close to catching Cy Young! The best pitcher in each league is given the Cy Young Award every season in honor of his great achievements.

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