The Mystery of the Missing Home Runs

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Why has the University of Nevada-Reno's baseball team, which is about two-thirds of the way through its season, hit only seven home runs this year in its home stadium, compared with 70 plus per season in years past? Gary Powers, the team's coach, says science can explain the decline: When artificial turf replaced natural grass before last season, there was a drop in the amount of oxygen in the air in the stadium, making home runs less likely. An actual scientist doesn't buy that explanation. "Any effect on the atmosphere from grass compared to artificial turf is going to be infinitesimally small," Vince Catalano, a chemistry professor at the University of Nevada-Reno, tells the Sagebrush. "It's a great excuse, but I would probably guess that home runs are down because the pitching is getting better."

Powers does have another theory that may be more scientifically sound: Record-high temperatures have made Reno less windy, and less wind during games means balls lose the extra boost to fly over the fences. "Reno reached record temperatures in the mid to high 70s in March, but on average Reno is in the mid to high 50s during March, according to weatherunderground.com," the Sagebrush reports.