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Beard Strong

UMass Lowell Gets its Beard On

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By University Relations Staff

With the Boston Red Sox vying for their third world championship in nine years, baseball fever is sweeping over campus.

UMass Lowell has plenty of ties to the game – from our Baseball Research Center, which studies the science of bats and balls, to LeLacheur Park, where several current players spent time on the diamond as members of the Lowell Spinners, the Red Sox single A affiliate. We asked some of our resident experts to share their unique perspective on game, from the weather’s impact on the long ball to the identity theory behind the players’ notorious beards. Check out UMass Lowell’s take and get your game on.

How Will the Weather Affect the Game?


"With temperatures in the 40s, here’s how the cold weather will have an effect on the game: 

"The flight of the baseball through the air is affected by air density. Warm and humid summer days have lower density. Colder temperatures and less humidity produce denser air, which will make it harder to hit the ball long distances; homeruns will be harder to hit. A strong wind blowing away from home plate (a wind from the southwest in Fenway Park), could offset the increased density. 

"Pitchers will feel the denser air too, since the effects of spin should be stronger. Curve balls will curve more, and movement on fastballs and sliders will be greater. As a result, pitches may be harder to hit, but also harder for the pitchers to control.

"For Wednesday, the temperatures will be similar to Games 1 and 2 — in the 40s — but with very light wind. So air density will be about the same, and the wind won’t help or hurt the hitters. There will likely be some very light rain Wednesday afternoon, which is forecast to be over by game time, but the outfield grass may be wet, which could allow for slippery footing and skidding of the balls as they hit the ground. 
"Thursday’s weather will be more interesting. The temperatures will be warmer — mid- to upper 50s — and the wind will be from the southwest at around 10 mph. This would give lower air density and the wind direction blows out away from home plate, helping the hitters. 

"The big wild card will be when and if the rain starts. Right now, it looks like the rain will start between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Thursday, so depending on how hard it starts, the game could be wet or delayed. High humidity will favor the hitters, but if it’s raining lightly, then it will come down to whether the pitchers can get a good grip on the wet baseball and if the hitters can see it well enough to hit."

-Prof. Frank Colby, Meteorology

What’s the Story with Those Beards?


“We all have multiple sources of identity, including personal characteristics and characteristics of the social groups to which we belong. When our social group does well, that piece of our own identity is enhanced proportionately. The more we identify with the group -- the Red Sox in this case -- the more our self-concept is enhanced by their victories. Red Sox beards are another way for the team to make their group membership distinctive among other baseball teams. They all have uniforms, so adding something to the uniform is one more sign of solidarity.”

-Assoc. Prof. Doreen Arcus, Psychology

What are the Physics Behind Hitting a Home Run?

“The bat and ball must come in contact at or near the bat’s “sweet spot,” which is located about six inches from the end of the barrel. The batter must also be swinging the bat to generate a bat speed in excess of 66 mph. Even more importantly, the height and angle of the bat must be positioned to provide the ball with the launch angle and spin necessary for the ball to carry over the Green Monster or the outfield wall. 

"At the Baseball Research Center, Prof. James Sherwood and his research team study the bats, the baseballs, and other equipment to better understand the materials and dynamics of the bat/ball collisions."

-Patrick Drane, assistant director, Baseball Research Center

Why are Players and Fans so Superstitious?

“We believe that superstition is the result of some coincidental reinforcement of a behavior that, in reality, is not connected to the outcome. I hit the elevator button and wait, hit it again twice and it arrives. The next time I am at an elevator, I might be likely to hit the button twice for starters. Baseball players have a reputation for being notoriously superstitious.  

“Why baseball especially -- I don't know, but I would venture to guess that the near impossibility of hitting an object less than 3 inches in diameter with a stick also less than 3 inches in diameter when the object is hurtling at you at 95 miles per hour has something to do with it. In other words, because the skill is so elusive, alternate explanations of contributions to success become even more plausible.

"Of course, the higher the stakes, the more you cling to the superstitious behavior. So we see them amplified around events like the World Series and other championship games.”

-Assoc. Prof. Doreen Arcus, Psychology

How will the World Series Impact the Local Economy?


“Each home game is expected to generate $9 million to 10 million or possibly more in increased revenues for the local economy due to hotel, retail, restaurant and other related sales. So if the World Series goes to seven games, the local economic impact could total $40 million. That number doesn't take into account follow-on sales of Sox–related merchandise after the series is over should the Red Sox win.”

-Assoc. Prof. Michael Carter, Economics