Winds play a key role in outdoor athletics, as any bicycle rider, runner or ballplayer can attest.
So it undoubtedly is a factor in the drop in homeruns since the College World Series moved to its new location in downtown Omaha. Other changes, notably bats, play a role, but wind can't be dismissed.
Scott Dergan, meteorologist for the National Weather Service, said there's a difference in way the wind affects homeruns at TD Ameritrade Park compared to the old Rosenblatt Stadium. Both face an easterly direction – this protects batters from being blinded by the setting sun.
But Rosenblatt was oriented to the north-northeast while TD Ameritrade is oriented toward the south-southeast. Additionally, Rosenblatt sat atop a hill while TD Ameritrade is along the the Missouri River in a valley.
“It's different than at Rosenblatt, where the prevailing winds helped the ball out of the park,” Dergan said.
Dergan said Omaha's prevailing winds during late spring and early summer are out of the south.
“The normal weather pattern in June, meaning a south wind, would suppress homerun hitting,” Dergan said. “You don't have the wind helping you out (as it did at Rosenblatt).”
Bottom line: a typical summer wind at Rosenblatt would likely lift a properly hit ball out of the park, while a similar wind at TD Ameritrade would have a tendency to push the ball back into the stadium or sideways.
Back in the day, when the bats were juiced up and the winds were right, the scores for games at Rosenblatt could easily reach into the double-digits.
A left-hander trying to pull the ball down right field would be hurt by a southerly wind, while a right-hander trying to get the ball into left field would struggle with a cross-wind.
Wind, Dergan said, creates friction, so the ball doesn't move through the air as easily.
Winds are most likely to be strongest during the afternoon games, dying down during the evening games, Dergan said.
A couple of other loose ends:
- Winds in a river valley are more likely to die down earlier in the evening than atop a hill.
- Humidity levels would be virtually the same, he said.
- As the air cools, the cooler air will settle in the valley, first. Cold air is denser, which can put more friction on a ball.
The graphic below shows average wind direction in Omaha for the hours 1 to 9 p.m. during the month of June. Dave Eastlack, meteorologist for the National Weather Service, said the graphic demonstrates that winds in Omaha tend to blow from the south to southeast more often and with greater strength than any other direction in June. There is some tendency for winds to blow out of the northwest, but those winds are less frequent and of less strength, he said.
The colors on the map correspond to wind speeds:
Purple - wind speeds in excess of 23 mph
Red - wind speeds of 14 mph to 23 mph
Green - winds of 5.5 mph to 14 mph
Source: National Weather Service