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The Center was founded with a $400K grant from Major League Baseball and Rawlings Sporting Goods in October 1998. Before that time, the baseball research was completed within the Advanced Composite Materials and Textiles Research Lab at UMass-Lowell, of which James Sherwood, Ph.D. is the Co-Director. However, as the research grew from doing high-speed impact computer models of bat/ball collisions and field studies of bats using players to robotic testing of bats and balls, the research tasks and space requirements dictated that the baseball research needed to have an identity and lab of its own. Fortunately at the same time, Bill Murray, Director of Operations for Major League Baseball, was interested in establishing an independent lab for completing science and engineering research as it applies to MLB.
From 1999 to 2011, the Center was the official certification center for all bats approved for use in NCAA baseball. The lab has worked in cooperation with the NCAA, the NCAA Baseball Research Panel, ASTM and the various bat companies in developing standards for bat performance and the enforcement of those standards. The lab is home to a state-of-the-art hitting machine.
In 2000, the Baseball Research Center helped MLB resolve the “juiced-ball controversy.” A record number of home runs were being hit and the media and fans were poised to blame changes in the baseball. The Baseball Research Center performed a number of tests for MLB and proved that the 2000 baseball was within MLB specifications.
In 2005, the Baseball Research Center moved to a new lab space on campus. The new location provides 1600 square feet of research space, an increase from the previous 1000 sq. ft. The new lab has three state-of-the-art bat and ball testing systems which utilize high-speed air cannons. One system is for durability testing, another is for performance testing, and another is for baseball dynamic stiffness testing. While in the new lab, the Center has become actively involved extensive studies of the dynamic durability of wood baseball bat and has performed numerous studies for Major League Baseball.
In 2012, the Center hosted The Engineering of Sport 9, the biennial international sports engineering conference of the International Sports Engineering Association. This conference brought together nearly 250 sports engineers and researchers from around the world to present and discuss research in a wide variety of sports.
In 2015, the Center hosted the Concussion Prevention and Diagnosis Workshop and brought together diverse participation to discuss the current state of the knowledge with respect to the sources, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of concussions, identify research gaps that currently exist in concussion research, and determine the future research paths that will provide immediate and long-term solutions to the concussion epidemic.