College of Science

Physics professor's work establishes new Rangers HR mark

Everyone who saw Josh Hamilton's home run on June 27 at Rangers Ballpark knew it went a long distance.

Thanks to UT Arlington physics professor Andrew Brandt, Hamilton's shot will go in the record book as the longest ever hit at the stadium - 490 feet.

The Rangers originally estimated the homer, belted off of Houston pitcher Roy Oswalt in the second inning of the Rangers' 10-1 win over the Astros, at 468 feet. That seemed a bit low considering the ball landed well into the upper deck in right field, toward the center field side, so the team contacted Brandt to see if he could calculate the actual distance.

Brandt consulted with representatives at Hit Tracker, an independent website, and Alan Nathan, a physics professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

"The Rangers contacted the UTA Physics Department asking us to look into the discrepancy between the 468 feet estimated by the Rangers and the 485 feet measured by Hit Tracker," Brandt said. "After Alan and I discussed the home run, he was able to get the initial velocity from SportsVision Inc. using cameras that are typically used to measure the incoming pitch location.

This additional constraint allowed further optimization of the trajectory and gave a distance closer to 495 feet." The additional distance was a result of factoring in things such as the wind speed, weather, flight time of the ball, and the distance from the upper deck to the ground.

"A lot of the other distances of home runs they consider where you hit it to where it reaches the ground," Brandt told MLB.com. "When you add on that extra distance from the upper deck down to the ground, that gives you an extra 25 or so feet. That's putting you in record kind of territory."

The team decided to use whatever Brandt said as the official estimate.

"After further discussions and taking into account all the uncertainties, I decided to average the distances and obtained 490 feet," Brandt said.

On July 3, Brandt announced the distance at the ballpark in front of reporters and an appreciative Hamilton.

Hamilton's smash becomes No. 1 on the list of longest home runs at Rangers Ballpark, which opened in 1994. It surpassed the previous record of 480 feet,

Josh Hamilton
Courtesy of Texas Rangers
UT Arlington physics professor Andrew Brandt shares a laugh with Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton during a July 3 press conference at Rangers Ballpark to announce the official length of Hamilton's June 27 home run.

set by Jose Canseco on June 13, 1994. Hamilton also owns the third-longest, 460 feet, set on May 15, 2009.

The Rangers aren't the first professional sports team to enlist UT Arlington's help in answering a question.

In the fall of 2006, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban asked the late UT Arlington physics chair Jim Horwitz to lead a study of the new synthetic basketball introduced by the NBA for the 2006-07 season. Horwitz and a group of UT Arlington faculty, staff and students led by physics professor Kaushik De determined that the new ball did not bounce as high or as straight as the old leather basketball previously used by the NBA, and that it was more difficult to grip when it became wet with perspiration.

The research received national attention and was praised by Cuban. The NBA returned to the leather model in January 2007.

Posted July 16, 2010