Before I learned how to walk, I was swinging a baseball bat. My dad made up his mind that I would play baseball, and I never had a choice but to play it and love playing it. As a child up to a teenager, baseball was my life. I played in two leagues as a child, so my whole life were devoted to baseball, where I would have a game on Saturday and two games on Sunday, and practices multiple days a week. Once I got to high school, practices/games were every day of the week. Despite countless hours of practice, I can easily say that hitting a baseball is by far the hardest thing I have ever had to do, but is it the hardest task to do in all of sports?
Just merely making contact with a baseball is extremely difficult on its own, but contact itself is not always good. The point in baseball is to hit it where the fielders are not. Making solid contact with a ball gives you a much greater chance of getting a hit. Lets start of by looking at some basic statistics. The diameter of a baseball is 3 inches long. The sweet spot (area on the bat where you will hit the ball the hardest) is 2.75 inches, less than the diameter of the baseball. Home plate has a width of 17 inches and an average height of 36 inches. The area of home plate is roughly 612 square inches, while the area of the ball is just over 7 square inches. This means that the ball, which you have to hit, takes up less than 2% of all the area which is a strike.
The average major league fastball sits at 95 miles per hour, but can reach speeds over 100 mph. Over the course of a major league fastball’s trip to home plate, the ball drops at an overage of 1.3 inches. When facing a 95 mph fastball, a hitter has just .43 seconds to decide if they want to swing or not. This means that in less than a half of a second, the batter has to identify that it is a fastball, determine where the pitch will end up, and figure out if they want to swing.
Next we have the changeup. A changeup averages 85 miles per hour, with an average vertical drop of 2.1 inches and a reaction time of .48 seconds. The purpose of a changeup is to deceive the batter in thinking that it is a fastball. The ball is thrown with the same arm speed as a fastball and when the pitch is coming, it has the allusion of a fastball. The hitter, thinking it is a fastball, will often swing early, causing them to miss the ball or make weak contact.
The next pitch is the curveball, which comes in at about 77 miles per hour, giving the hitter a reaction time of .53 seconds. What makes this pitch so difficult to hit is the movement of the ball. This pitch drops at an average of 14.1 inches, meaning that from the time the ball is released from the pitchers hand to the time it reaches the batter, it drops over a foot. Not only does it move vertically, but horizontally as well. A curveball has the ability to start on one side of the plate, and move over to the other side. Hitting any of these pitches when knowing what is coming is a challenging task, but when the pitcher mixes what pitches they throw and where they throw it in no particular order, hitting a baseball becomes nearly impossible.
I understand that there are many other extremely difficult things to do in sports. Boxing is known to be the hardest pound by pound sport in the world. In boxing, you have to be able to throw punches, dodge punches, and take punches. Boxing is very hard and both physically and mentally exhausting to the body. Ice hockey is also a very challenging sport. Being a very good skater on its own is extremely difficult, but to be able to pass the puck, hit the opponent, and shoot the puck, while skating, takes serious talent. According to ESPN, Boxing and Ice hockey are rated as the two hardest sports in the world. I’m not saying baseball in general is harder than any of those two sports, as defense is a lot easier than offense, but to me, specifically hitting a baseball is harder than any specific task in any sport. There is no true way to prove if hitting a baseball is the hardest task in sports, though, because the word “hardest” is just a a matter of opinion.