Monday, July 18, 2022

Warning Track

The warning track is the strip of dirt at the edges of the baseball field (especially in front of the home run fence and along the left and right sides of a field). Because the warning track's color and feel differ from the grass field, a fielder can remain focused on a fly ball near the fence and measure their proximity to the fence while attempting to catch the ball safely.

A warning track's width is not specified in the rules. It is generally designed to give about three steps of warning to the highest-level players using the field. Typical widths run from about six feet for Little League fields to about 10–15 feet (3.0–4.6 meters) for college- or professional-level play. A warning track this wide also lets groundskeepers avoid driving maintenance vehicles on the grass.

The track can be composed of finely ground rock particles such as cinders, which is why announcer Bob Wolff called it the "cinder path" rather than the "warning track."

The idea of a warning track originated in Yankee Stadium, where an actual running track was built for use in track and field events. When ballpark designers saw how the track helped fielders, it soon became a feature of every ballpark.

Single-minded fielders often crash into a wall trying to make a catch despite the warning track. For this reason, outfield walls are typically padded for extra safety. Wrigley Field's brick wall is covered only by ivy, which is not especially soft. However, there are pads on the walls of the tight left and right field corners in foul ground.

Warning-track power is a derogatory term for a batter who seems to have just enough power to hit the ball to the warning track for an out, but not enough to hit a home run. The term more generally refers to someone or something that is almost but not quite good enough for something.

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