PennFuture Blog

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How Climate Change is Affecting Baseball Games Across the Country

Recently, the Harrisburg Senators had to cancel its game against the Bowie Baysox in anticipation of the Susquehanna River flooding out City Island. Like many others, I was disappointed because I was looking forward to an evening of cheering on the home team. I was also disappointed because the Senators had planned to host their first ever “Go Green” night to benefit and promote a number of local environmental organizations, including PennFuture. The Senators are to be applauded for organizing this promotion and I greatly look forward to participating in it next season—as long as City Island isn’t flooded again.

Rainouts have always been a part of baseball, but are we seeing something different? Thanks to climate change, abnormal weather conditions are becoming the new normal. This year’s baseball season opened with a record 28 major league games being postponed in April because of weather conditions. Having a ballpark on an island certainly makes the minor league Senators more vulnerable to inclement weather, but what we are experiencing this summer is extreme.

Dr. Michael Mann, Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science at Penn State and PennFuture Board Member says, “The extreme weather we are seeing this summer around the Northern Hemisphere (i.e. extreme heatwaves, floods, droughts, and wildfires), including the extreme rainfall seen recently here in Pennsylvania, is related to an unusually stationary, highly meandering perturbation in the jet stream. Our work (i.e. this article last year: shows that this sort of pattern, which has been associated with many of the most extreme, persistent weather events in recent years including the 2003 European heat wave, 2010 Moscow wildfires, 2011 Texas & Oklahoma drought, 2016 Alberta wildfires etc., is becoming more common because of human-caused climate change (and in particular, because of amplified Arctic warming).”

Rainouts and flooding are not the only threats to America’s oldest pastime. According to a recent report from the National Wildlife Federation the high humidity that much of the country is experiencing is making the balls heavier with moisture, and it is easier to hit a home-run with a heavier ball—and not just in the Colorado Rockies ballpark where they’ve been storing their baseballs in humidors since 2002. For 2018, the MLB has mandated that all teams store their balls in an “air conditioned and enclosed room” with a sensor to help determine if every team should be required to use humidors.

Another issue affecting baseball, according to NWF, relates not to the balls, but the bats. The invasive Emerald ash borer beetle has killed millions of ash trees since 2002. And ash happens to be one of the most popular woods for making baseball bats. Unfortunately, like games in April and infield hits, the ash bat may become a thing of the past for baseball fans because of climate change.

According to a Franklin & Marshall College/StateImpact Pennsylvania poll this spring, the majority of us in PA believe that climate change is causing problems right now and that the state should be doing more to address it. 

Confronting a problem of this magnitude can seem overwhelming. Individually, we all have a voice – collectively, we have impact. PennFuture amplifies this voice. Recently, we worked with a coalition of 25 unified environmental groups across the state to create the first-ever Pennsylvania Common Conservation Agenda. The Common Agenda is a comprehensive blueprint the next governor can use to address our environmental challenges. It provides the candidates with common sense solutions for the state to move towards a clean energy economy and increase environmental protection for our most vulnerable communities, and just maybe our baseball parks too. You can read the Common Agenda here while waiting for the rain delay to end.

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