The Virtual Batting Cage

“Baseball is dull only to dull minds”

I am a baseball fan. Have been since I was a little kid and will likely be till the day I die. To me the sport transcends the physical space it is played on and enters into a narrative and symbolic realm. When you tend to be vocal about baseball like I am, you hear a lot of rebukes: “How hard could it be?” “Why are the players so fat?” “It’s so boring.” Well, to quote the great Red Barber, “Baseball is dull only to dull minds” and I guess I intend to do some sharpening. My ICM finale will attempt to educate users about baseball by having them play the sport themselves. I hope to show them the nuance, the beauty and the difficulty of the sport both visually and physically.
I know a good amount about baseball, which is to say I know about…oh, let’s say 30% of what baseball has to teach. One area that I struggle with is pitch recognition. For those unfamiliar, a pitcher has a certain arsenal with which he throws i.e. a fastball, a changeup, a curveball and a slider. If I were to describe these pitches to you they would sound very different but when they are moving at 90+ MPH, they’re hard to tell the difference. How can I create something that helps pitch recognition but isn’t just me sitting down at a screen and watching baseball highlights?

“Baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical”


Over the summer I started working for a baseball website that does exactly what I am looking to do. I guess I was sort of curious as to how I could make this visual experience a more interactive one. For my PComp Midterm, I took the following sketch and replaced the mouse-pressed bat with an actual physical bat but this was just the beginning. What I aim to do with my ICM final is to make this a full-fledged experience. There will be a home plate that is essentially a trigger for three different modes. If you tap on the green part of the plate, the p5 sketch will throw fastballs right down the middle; this will be “Easy Mode”. If you tap on the yellow part of the plate, there will be a “Hard Mode” that features more challenging pitches like curveballs and sliders. If you press the red part “Game Mode”, an image will appear in the top left hand corner of the sketch featuring a pitcher who you will face off against.
Due to the fact that this is both a PComp and an ICM final, I’ve spent a bit more time focusing on the physical elements first as I feel that it will dictate what the ICM final ends up looking like. Truth be told though, it wasn’t until I play test the PComp idea that I got a lot of great feedback on what the ICM sketch should incorporate. Below is a tentative sketch as to what the screen will look during “Game Mode”.
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As you can see, there’s a mound and a ball being thrown towards you. There’s a batter’s box and a home plate, which will resemble what the user is actually standing on: a grass batters box next to a home plate. In the top left hand corner will be the face of the pitcher you are facing off against. Below him will be his arsenal. In the center of the screen there will be a scoreboard keeping track of how much time you have left to accrue hits and a hit counter.

Code

Luckily, a big part of the actual code is done due to my midterm, but there is still a lot left to accomplish. I need to create my own JSON file with various pieces of data from the pitchers we want to incorporate into the sketch. I need to figure out a way to map that data so that it appears accurately and realistically into the sketch too. After that, we can work on the other, more aesthetic features. Work has already begun on creating a button that can switch between different pitchers and is featured below (code here).

More?

As of now, there are still a lot of things that can be added and subtracted from the experience. I’m interested in providing as much information as possible while maintaining clarity in the sketch. The last thing I would want would be for the user to be overloaded with information. I would like to provide just enough for them to develop a genuine curiosity about baseball so that they might pursue an interest in it in the future.

The Future   

Ultimately, I would love to take this an put it into an even more immersive 3D experience. I feel like you’ll be able to get a good understanding of pitch recognition on a 2D plain, but you won’t be able to fully get it until you experience it in 3D.

Update!

Since last week, there have been a lot of strides made, here are a few of them:

Frequency.

The particular sketch that you are looking at is not only representative of the arsenal that Noah “Thor” Syndergaard threw in the 2016 season but also represents how frequently he threw said pitch:

Stadium and Scoreboard

This sketch shows a close resemblance to what the final product will look like. The pitchers will be able to be rotated (here it is using the keypressed function but in the final you will press a button located on the helmet (see video)), and a scoreboard will tally how many hits you’ve gathered.

Button 

A very cranky girlfriend uses the button function

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