- Home plate is a five-sided slab made of a whitened rubber, a shift from the original materials of marble or stone used in baseball’s early days
- The pointed end of a plate is usually aligned to face due east to minimize the batter’s glare from the setting sun
- The size of plate in baseball are standard across all levels of play, from Little League to Major League Baseball
Unveiling itself at the intersection of chalk-drawn baselines, the homeplate in baseball, a distinctive five-sided figure, is more than a piece of whitened rubber set into the field.
With its unique pentagonal design and strategic positioning, the platter is the nucleus of every baseball narrative, a silent scribe of triumphant homers, and the ultimate arbiter of high-stakes games.
What is the Home Base?
In baseball, the “dish” is one of the four bases that must be touched by a player to score a run. It is where the batter stands and tries to hit pitches thrown by the pitcher.
It also serves as a crucial reference point for umpires, who use its edges to define the “strike zone”, the area where a pitch must pass to be considered a strike if not swung at by the batter.
The strike zone extends vertically from the bottom of the batter’s knees to the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants, and horizontally over the plate.
Therefore, it plays a pivotal role in every baseball game, being a place of both beginnings (as the starting point for each play) and endings (as the scoring point for runs).
The plate is a five-sided slab in the shape made of whitened rubber.
- It is a 17-inch square with two of the corners filled in to form a pentagon
- The sides adjacent to the square are 8.5 inches in length
- The rear edge of the plate (formed by the filled-in corners) is 12 inches long
Distances to Other Bases
Below are distances for a 60/90 field. For additional field sizes, please read Distance Between Bases – Baseline Measurements
- Pitching Mound – 60 feet 6 inches
- First Base – 90 feet (from the rear point of the plate to far corner of base)
- Second Base – 127 Feet 3⅜ Inches (from the rear point of the plate to far corner of base)
- Third Base – 90 feet (from the rear point of the plate to far corner of base)
Outfield to Home
The exact distance between any point in the outfield and home can vary depending on the stadium or baseball field and the specific spot in the outfield from where the throw is made.
Let’s use the Yankee Stadium for our example.
From the LEFT FIELD to Home
- The shortest distance down the left field line (from the foul pole to home ) is 318 feet
- For throws made from more central locations in left field, the distance is 399 feet
- A ball thrown from left-center field, for example, might travel a distance closer to 350 feet or more.
From the CENTER FIELD to Home
- The distance from the center field to home is more considerable than from left or right field. The center field wall is approximately 408 feet from home
- This makes for a substantial throw for any outfielder trying to get the ball to home without a cut-off man.
From the RIGHT FIELD to Home
- The shortest distance from the right field is down the foul line to home which is approximately 314 feet. The right center region is actually 385 feet
- For throws from deeper in right field or from right-center field, the distance is approximately 385 feet
Evolution of Home Base
The history of home base, like baseball itself, is deeply rooted in tradition and evolution. The first baseball games were played with a plate made of marble or stone.
The word “plate” follows the original shape which was a simple, round disc.
It wasn’t until 1877, when the National League officially adapted to a five-sided shape, the same home base we know today.
But why the unique shape, you might wonder? The five-sided design is a compromise between the square plate used in baseball's early days and the rectangular one of the New York game, another early form of baseball.
The size has undergone several changes throughout the years. From a 12-inch square in the 19th century, the plate we’re familiar with now measures 17 inches across, extending 8.5 inches down each side before tapering into a point.
This design has been untouched for more than a century, an icon of stability in an ever-changing sport.
Over the years, the world of baseball has seen its fair share of controversies, and quite a few have involved home base. Here are two notable incidents, each providing a unique perspective on how home base can become the epicenter of tension and debate.
The George Brett “Pine Tar” Incident
This event unfolded on July 24, 1983, when Kansas City Royals’ George Brett hit a two-run homer off New York Yankees’ reliever Goose Gossage.
The Yankees’ manager Billy Martin objected that Brett’s bat had more pine tar—the sticky substance used to improve grip—than the rules allowed, extending more than 18 inches up the bat handle from the knob (under the rules of the time, such a violation called for the batter to be called out).
After placing the bat on home plate to measure the length of pine tar, home plate umpire Tim McClelland ruled in favor of the Yankees, leading to Brett storming out of the dugout in one of baseball’s most iconic moments of rage.
The Royals protested the game, and American League president Lee MacPhail later overruled the umpires, reinstating the home run and resuming the game from that point nearly a month later.
The Matt Holliday “Did He Touch Home ?” Controversy
In the 2007 National League Wild Card tie-breaker game, Matt Holliday of the Colorado Rockies attempted to score the winning run on a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 13th inning.
As he slid into home, San Diego Padres catcher Michael Barrett blocked the plate and attempted to apply a tag. Holliday never clearly touched the plate but was still called safe, resulting in a win for the Rockies.
This contentious decision ignited a heated debate among fans and experts about whether Holliday actually touched home plte or not.
This controversy and others like it have contributed to the adoption of video replay in MLB to help umpires make the correct call.
How it is installed
Home anchor is set into the ground such that its top surface is flush or level with the ground. This allows the ball to slide across the plate without obstruction, and also ensures that runners can safely slide into home without encountering an elevated obstacle.
The edges of the plate are beveled except for the edge facing the pitcher’s mound, which is left squared.
Younger baseball players tend to over slide so home plates on youth field are elevated or raised by approximately 0.75″.
Beacon Athletics has an excellent post on how the plate is properly installed.
In the world of baseball, home base is a symbol – of beginnings, of endings, of excitement and disappointment, victory and defeat.
With recent changes in base size, home base is the only thing that remains constant.
The sun has set now, and in the twilight, it seems to glow with all the stories it holds, waiting for the next day and the next game to begin.
What are the dimensions of home base?
It is a five-sided slab made of whitened rubber. It is 17 inches across the front, 8.5 inches down each side, and the two rear edges are 12 inches each, set at an angle to make a point.
Is it home plate or home base?
Home base and home plate in baseball are interchangeable. Some people also referred to it as dish, home, platter, and the plate.
Is home plate or homeplate (one word or two words)?
Correct word format is home plate (noun)
Is it flush with the ground?
Yes, the plate is set so that its top surface is level with the ground. This ensures the ball can slide across the plate without obstruction and runners can safely slide into home.
What is the purpose of it’s unique shape?
The unique five-sided shape of it home base serves as the basis for the batter’s box and the strike zone. The width of the plate (17 inches) and its vertical extension upwards from the front edge helps the umpire determine balls and strikes.
Why is it white?
Home base is white to contrast with the surrounding dirt and provide a clear visual target for both the pitcher and the batter. It also helps the umpire make accurate calls.
How is it positioned?
Home base is positioned at one corner of the infield diamond, with its pointed end directed towards the outfield. The two 8.5-inch sides run along the first and third base lines.
Is there a specific side of home base a batter must stand on?
Batters can stand on either side of home base, in the respective batter’s box, depending on whether they are a right-handed or left-handed hitter.
What material is it made from?
Home plate is typically made from a hard rubber material. It’s designed to withstand the constant impact of baseballs and cleats throughout a game.
Can a runner overrun home like first base?
No, unlike first base, a runner cannot overrun home plate. If a runner overruns home plate, they can be tagged out.
How does the plate contribute to the strike zone?
The strike zone is based on the width of home base. In general terms, if a pitched ball passes over any part of home base, between the batter’s knees and the midpoint of their torso, it can be considered a strike.
What are the rules for sliding into home base?
Rules for sliding into home can vary by league. In general, a runner must avoid making malicious contact with the catcher, or any player covering the plate. Some leagues, including Major League Baseball, have specific rules about blocking the plate and collision avoidance.