The balls of spring



Spring officially began last Thursday at 8:56 a.m., one of the two days a year when the sun crosses the equator and day and night are of nearly equal length.

Unofficially, it begins on major-league baseball's Opening Day. Or the day you can begin a soccer game without wearing a jacket. Or can consider playing tennis outdoors. Or - especially in the Northeast - begin to play lacrosse without freezing.

They are spring's true planets, the small, round objects that you bat, kick, whack or hurl.


Ball: 2 1/4 inches in diameter, 5 to 5 ounces in weight.

Materials: Red cushion cork with two layers of rubber; wound with yarn, then cotton and then a synthetic fiber. Encased by two strips of cowhide tanned in an aluminum-based solution.

Bat: No longer than 3 1/2 feet and at no point more than 2 3/4 inches in diameter.

Materials: Rounded wood, usually hickory or ash.

Speed: A major-league pitcher hurls a fastball at 95 miles per hour or faster, propelling the ball 60.5 feet to home plate in 0.43 seconds. In the hands of a major-league slugger, the end of a bat reaches a speed of 85 miles per hour during his swing. When the bat and ball collide, 45 percent of the energy is dissipated as heat, noise and deformation of the ball and bat. The ball reaches a "muzzle velocity" of 140 miles per hour immediately after it is hit, then slows to an average speed of 110 miles per hour over an arching course.


Ball: 2 5/8 inches in diameter, 2 ounces to 2 1/16 ounces in weight.

Materials: 1/8-inch-thick natural rubber core, filled with air pressurized to 12 to 13 pounds per square inch, then covered with felt.

Racket: No more than 32 inches long and 12 1/2 inches wide.

Materials: Frames may be wood, steel or other compositions.

Speed: Served by a professional player, a ball comes off the racket at 130 miles an hour, but badly distorted from the impact with the strings. Its mashed shape and the oscillations of the interior air cut the velocity by half before the ball reaches the net. Bouncing off the court slows it further, to about 40 miles per hour by the time it reaches the opponent.


Ball: Diameter of 2.8 to 3 inches, weight of 5 to 5 1/2 ounces. If properly pressurized, ball should bounce 44 to 51 inches when dropped from a height of 72 inches onto concrete.

Materials: India rubber.

Stick: Men's - 40 to 70 inches long with a net 6 1/2 to 10 inches wide; goalkeeper's net may be 12 inches wide. Women's - 36 to 44 inches long with net, 7 to 9 inches; goalkeeper's, 36 to 48 inches long and net 7 to 12 inches wide. Strung so the ball cannot become lodged in the net and shaped so it cannot be used to "hook" an opponent's stick.

Speed: During a shot on goal, the ball can reach speeds of 85 to 100 miles per hour.


Ball: 26.8 to 27.6 inches in circumference; must weigh 14 to 16 ounces at the start of a game and be inflated to 13 to 16 pounds per square inch of pressure.

Materials: Man-made outer skin stitched over rubber bladder.


Ball: 1.68 inches in diameter, 1.62 ounces in weight.

Materials: Rubber core with a thermoplastic cover. Dimpling the surface of the ball reduces aerodynamic drag. The same energy needed to move a smooth-surfaced ball 150 yards moves a dimpled ball 250 yards.

Club: Maximum of 14 are allowed, each with its own face angle. Ranges from a 0-degree putter to 60-degree wedge.

Materials: Wood, lightweight metals and advanced fibers.

Speed: A professional golfer gets the head of the club moving at 120 miles per hour during a drive, striking the ball with a force of 2,200 pounds per square inch. The ball accelerates from 0 to 163 miles per hour in 0.005 seconds.

Pub Date: 3/27/97

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