There was a request in our writer’s room for someone to write a “what if your sport was played on ice” article, and I was immediately reminded of an episode of The Magic School Bus where Ms. Frizzle took the kids inside a physics book with a frictionless baseball field to understand how forces act on objects. It was complete chaos. Sparked with this inspiration from my early years, I figured I’ll be the one to examine if baseball was played on ice.
My initial thought was that the players would be wearing skates in such a situation, but the more I thought about it, the cleats might actually work. In either situation, the base paths would need to be zamboni’d fairly frequently, but wearing metal stubs might actually give the players a bit more grip for digging into the batter’s box or for the pitchers lower body mechanics. Running on spikes would definitely be slower than skates but it would be more controlled so maybe there’s a touch less chaos, though ultimately I think in this world we’re looking for maximum chaos. At least that’s my general philosophy on life, so we’ll move forward assuming these players have skates.
Pitching on ice would be very, very different in this world because to keep your balance on ice you really can’t stride. Velocity would be way down because of it and the only thing I can think of to try and make it a little better is if the pitcher had a curling-like block to push off from to pitch. That might not be the safest way to do it though as I imagine the pitcher would end up a lot closer to home plate than they are now and have no time to react to a comebacker.
Hitting would be interesting since, again for balance, you can’t really take a stride and swing your hips like normal. However, the major advantage here is that pitching would be a lot slower as I mentioned before and that because the field is ice, almost every bit of contact is going to make it out of the infield. With no grass and dirt to slow the bal,l the infielders are only going to make a play if it’s essentially hit right at them.
Feilding on skates would be terrible to attempt but kind of fun to watch others do because reaction time is very diminished but the ball isn’t slowing so either you have to have amazing reflexes or use your body to just knock everything down you possibly can to make a play. Outfield seems like it would be a little easier but with how much space there is in the outfield I’m going to guess the majority of balls are going to make it to the wall. However, diving catches would be very dramatic looking with the excess sliding on the ice and if timed right you can start your dive super early and just look baller making plays out there.
Base running seems like the most chaotic part of this whole endeavor to me. Sliding would need to be banned from the game if people have skates, that’s just too dangerous. Apart from first base and home, watching players try and stop on the base would be very entertaining. Stealing, I imagine, would become a lot easier with the diminished velocity on pitches and skating being faster than running, it should be a breeze.
All in all, I think we’re looking at a version of the game resembling Little League with hard-to-watch fielding but a bunch of scoring. So, if that’s your jam you might be into baseball being played on ice. Personally, although I am a fan of general chaos, I think I like baseball being played the way it is.