We usually hear of pitchers utilizing killer breaking balls to earn need strikes in clutch moments, but how often do you see a batter hit what appears to be a curve ball in what Japanese baseball fans have dubbed the “paranormal homerun.”
The above video was taken during the sixth inning of a game between the (Tokyo) Yomiuri Giants and the Yokohama DeNA BayStars on 26 August. You have to watch it carefully, but if you follow this homerun, it seems to clearly change its trajectory – almost as if it was bouncing off some invisible object.
What followed was a flurry of speculation and theories ranging from the logical to the ridiculous However, one video on YouTube almost certainly has closed the case on this magical hit.
The announcers on the video are at a loss to explain what happened. The woman suggests that it could have bounced off an insect. Given the size of bugs in this country, that’s not as crazy as it sounds.
They also mention that the man who hit the homerun, Shinosuke Abe, didn’t notice anything strange about the balls path straight up center field, except that it went further than he expected.
The video was soon posted on YouTube labeled as Where’s Giants’ Abe’s Homerun Ball Going? resulting in everyone and their mother throwing in their two cents over what happened.
Many mentioned the plausible explanations of a freak gust of wind or a particular spin of a misshapen ball. Others chose to think outside the box suggesting a fan’s psychic powers, a sniper shooting the ball midair, or one of the fielders chucking a stone at it.
In the end, the following video, Verification of Abe’s Paranormal Hit demonstrates the real forces at work – the camera.
Using a 3D animation program, we can watch the standard parabolic path of a ball through both a stationary camera (Top Right) and one that mimics the video’s (Left).
If you watch the original video again, at the same moment the ball changes direction the camera quickly zooms out and continues panning to the left.
This throws off the stationary viewer’s sense of perspective and gives them the illusion that the ball changes direction. It’s the same optical distortion that makes me suck at using the sniper rifle in Call of Duty.
What’s really cool is that if you watch the video again with a clear understanding, your mind can adjust for it and you’ll be able to see the ball follow a smooth arch-like path into the stands. Give it a try!