Unlike the arcs of soccer or basketball fields, which can be nightmares of geometry, the lines of baseball are straight and true.
Lines used to bracket a baseball field, to create the boundaries of its being, are formed by calcium carbonate. They do not occur naturally. They can be angled and re-angled as long as they are of regulation length. The boundaries are the essence of home field advantage.
In the days of Riverfront, the basepaths were still visible in football season, just as home plate was easily picked out during winter. One season always promised the next. The base paths were there, but they weren’t.
Most pro fields use a white powder known as calcium carbonate (and you thought cocaine was the only sugary dust capable of capsizing careers and trafficking in the billions.) Calcium carbonate is a form of metamorphic rock. And metamorphic rock, dear readers, is what happens when immense heat and enormous pressure are exerted upon objects of the earth for extended periods; nine geologic innings, perhaps.
Base paths are, in other words, marble: That which is favored for some of the most delicate and intricate art the world has ever seen. When Michelangelo and Bernini chiseled and scraped, this is what fluttered to the floor.
This form of stone is so supple it was used translucently cover the faces of women shaped from it. That means that when calcium citrate forms the outer edges of a thing, the viewer can still see the full face of a person. It invites seeing. Marble is simultaneously hard-packed and soft, as rocks go.
You can buy marble dust in little bags at art supply stores or as lime in giant sacks from sports retailers Museums use marble dust to recreate sculptures– 3D-print a fake of the whole thing or patch up the real item. And so the same chemical composition can shape the window to a face or stand in as a cheap replica of something greater and far more rare. The fate of it lies in its intended use.
Calcium carbonate is, in its cheapest form, chalk– educational and easily erased. Between innings the grounds crew might scrape away the earlier part of the game with a shovel, blending it with the surrounding dirt. The baseline thus becomes part of the field, unseen but still present. More white dust is applied, wiping away the distortions the sliding, running, ball skipping, and tagging have caused. It is time to begin again.
With a few manufacturing tweaks, it becomes filler for grey slabs or sidewalk and rough outer walls of ball parks. It heralds its finer form on the infield. When artists use marble dust, they might mix it with paint to create more texture or repair a fresco. It creates and re-creates.