"How many feet are in a baseball field?" asked third-graders in Jennifer Janik's class at Big Hollow School in Ingleside.
Take a close look at a professional baseball park. Here in Chicago we've got two: U.S. Cellular Field where the Chicago White Sox play and Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs.
The fields may look exactly the same, but the sizes of the fields can vary by a few feet or even more.
That's OK, according to Major League Baseball, the organization that governs the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues. MLB creates and enforces the rules for professional baseball.
Some rules are more than 150 years old. The Knickerbockers Base Ball Club rule book, published in 1845, measured the distance between the bases using paces.
Decisions made at an 1857 baseball convention created the more formal measure of 30 yards between the bases - the same rule used in ballparks today.
As time went on, more rules about the field were adopted. Ballparks had to have an enclosed field, and ball clubs were ordered to police their parks. Early ball fields placed the farthest point of the outfield at 210 feet from home base. Batters who could slam the ball over the fence could take two bases.
Today, official rules call for using a steel measuring tape when marking off the length between bases. The distance between home plate and second base, and the opposite first-to-third base dimension, is set at 127 feet, 33/8 inches.
It's the distance from home plate to the farthest point at center field that has a little sway. These two points can be 400 feet apart - plus or minus a few feet.
Anyone who can belt the ball over that fence line gets to run all four bases. That batter and any other runners on base each add one point to the team's score.
Roger Bossard, head grounds manager for the White Sox, said the area of the grass on the Cell's playing field is 101,000 square feet. Add to that the warning track and sides and the total is 128,000 square feet.
Across town, Wrigley's dimensions are similar within a few feet on each side. According to fans, that's where the similarities end.
Check these out
The Antioch Public Library suggests these titles on baseball:
• "The Boy Who Saved Baseball" by John H. Ritter
• "Baseball Stars" by Virginia Buckman
• "Baseball" by Michael Teitelbaum
• "The Babe & I" by David A. Adler
• "Casey Back at Bat" by Dan Gutman