People might imagine that most elite sports involve a lot of running, and some of them do. One sport, though, that’s a bit different is Major League Baseball, which involves very little running. Here’s a look at how it measures up to other professional sports and a quick look at whether baseball players still qualify as elite athletes even without doing much running.
Running during a baseball game
Baseball players run less than a tenth of a mile each game, and most players probably run less than 100 yards per game. One estimate from several years ago from Runner’s World was that players run about .0375 miles each game, which is about 198 feet.
Those numbers are based on Mike Trout’s 2015 statistics with the Los Angeles Angels. There are only 90 feet between each of the bases. Adding up all of his runs between bases and stolen bases, he totaled about six miles during the regular season.
That doesn’t count the running he also did playing center field. With an excellent batting average that season of .299, there were likely many players who ran around the bases a lot less than Trout did.
Another estimate, based on 2014 statistics from the Colorado Rockies’ Troy Tulowitzki, came up with .046 miles per game. That converts to about 242 feet each game. Tulowitzki had a batting average of .340 that year, so he ran a lot more than the average MLB player did. Generally, the distance players run in baseball isn’t being measured since it totals so little.
Running in other pro sports
Many of the other pro sports (aside from ice hockey, for obvious reasons) involve quite a bit more running during games than baseball. According to Runner’s World, in football, receivers and cornerbacks run about 1.25 miles each game; however, all that running is done in only about 11 minutes of active playing time during the game.
The top runners in basketball average about 2.55 miles per game. There’s a lot of variation in tennis, including the length of the match, but the distance run is about three miles. Field hockey and soccer top the list, at 5.6 miles and 7 miles respectively. Midfielders in soccer run even more, sometimes up to 9.5 miles.
What makes baseball players elite athletes?
Although baseball players aren’t distance runners, they do sprint plus throw a ball and swing a bat repetitively, which are all different types of physical endurance. MLB players also have to have the endurance to play 180 games over seven months.
It’s their disciplined training that helps to make them elite athletes. Dr. Christopher S. Ahmad, head team physician for the Yankees, told U.S. News & World Report in 2018 that, like regular athletes, MLB players focus on improving “strength, endurance, flexibility, balance, and conditioning.”
They work on core muscles with weights and do yoga and Pilates to help with flexibility. Players also do drills to improve acceleration, allowing them to explode out of home plate and reach first base faster. Of course, different baseball positions have different training needs and physical requirements.
Baseball can be a game of physical precision and bursts of speed rather than lots of running. Athletic plays, rather than distance, stand out in baseball games, from pitching to hitting to sprinting to leaping, catching, and throwing. Some of the fabulous ball-handling plays require spectacular hand-eye coordination plus instincts and skills, none of which require long-distance running.
While the question of running in a game may start to raise more questions about what makes a player an elite athlete, it becomes clear that baseball players are indeed top athletes even without much running.