A caution strip in baseball is a dirt strip along the wall or fence of the field to prevent injuries. It also helps outfielders improve their jump holds and track the ball. The width varies, but it’s usually about three steps wide. The first caution trail was used in the original Yankee Stadium in 1923.
A caution strip in baseball is a wide strip of dirt that runs along the wall or fence surrounding the field. A defender transitioning from grass or artificial turf and onto the dirt surface of the rink should notice the different surface underfoot and know that he is approaching the wall, even without looking in that direction. The caution track is designed to help prevent injuries that could occur if a fielder who was running to catch a fly ball crashed into a wall, even a padded wall, without warning. Many ballparks have a warning trail along every wall or fence, but others have only one along the outfield wall. Some fields, such as those used by teams in youth, high school, or recreational leagues, may not have a warning sign at all.
Help the Fielders
In addition to increasing safety, the track also helps outfielders improve their jump holds. Many outfielders will follow flyovers by looking over their shoulder and thus fail to see that they are rapidly approaching the block. Therefore, they will use their first step on the track as a marker to help them know when to jump so they can reach the wall and hit what would otherwise be a home run. The caution trail frees up a defender’s field of vision to track the ball rather than having to look and see where the block is. If the defender were to take his eyes off the ball and look at the block, he may not be able to locate the ball again and therefore would not be able to catch it before it lands.
There is no set distance that should be a warning trail. A general rule that is used in many fields is that the track should be about three steps wide, which is considered sufficient warning for a fielder. In most major league ballparks, the track is about 15 to 20 feet (about 4.6 to 6.1 m) wide. At other levels of baseball, it might be 6 or 10 feet (1.8 or 3.0 m) wide, or some other width within a similar range.
The first use of a caution trail occurred at the original Yankee Stadium in New York City, which opened in 1923 and was used until 2008. The red cinder trail that ran around the entire perimeter of the ballpark was originally intended to serve as a running surface Field events. Players started to realize that once they hit the cinder trail, they were getting close to the wall. The warning track was born and began to be placed in all major league baseball parks.