Geometry in Sports

Geometrical shapes are quite common in sports. We are all familiar with the rectangular football field that is divided by parallel lines marking the 10 yard increments. A similar field is used in soccer, field hockey and lacrosse just to mention a few. The basketball court is also a rectangle decorated with circles and arcs that each has a meaning within the game.

Of course, most sports also use a sphere that is called a ball. They vary in size, hardness, density and can be hurled or hit at different speeds. These different types of spheres have a major impact in defining how the game is played.

However, I would like to spend some extra time pointing out the geometry of the American pastime, baseball. The baseball diamond is in reality a square with the bases sitting on the four corners. First, second and third are padded squares used for tagging up, tagging to force outs or touching as being passed. Home plate is a pentagon and the strike zone is an imaginary rectangle above home plate that the pitcher tries to hit as the ball passes over the plate so that the umpire will call a strike when the batter does not hit the ball. The pitcher delivers his throws from another small rectangle called the pitcher’s mound. The rays defined by the home plate and either first base or third base also define the area that is consider legal or “fair” territory.

The catcher plays behind the home plate pentagon while the batter stands in a rectangle on either side of home plate in an area referred to as the batter’s box. The infield defense play in the infield lanes that are formed by the bases and an arc that encloses the base running area. The outfield defense plays in the grassy area beyond the infield that is enclosed by a wall that forms a bigger arc that is hundreds of feet from home plate where the batter is attempting to hit the ball. The total area within this conical shape creates more space than can be easily covered by the defense allowing for hits that are not home runs which is a hit over the far arc’s walls.

Thus the playing field for the game of baseball is made up of pentagons, rectangles, squares, and arcs defined for the play with special sphere, the baseball. The throwing, catching and hitting of that sphere, or ball, defines the skill that is needed to play the game of baseball.

Mathematics Standards:

Strand 4 – Geometry and Measurement

Concept 1 – Geometric Properties

PO1, PO2, PO3, PO4 and PO5