The Ole Ball Game

Why the 'turn-over' of baseballs during a game?

by Jim
(Phoenix, AZ)

Jim asked: At times, it appears that a new ball is put into play for the flimsiest of reasons.


When my dad played ball as a pitcher back in the late 1940s and early 1950s, he wanted to use the same ball for as long as possible. His reason -- the more 'used' it was, the more 'English' it would have when pitched.

What are the rules about switching for a new ball?


Rick answered: Jim, thank you for your question.

There seems to be no real verbiage in the rule book concerning an exact science for determining the life span of a MLB game ball.

There have always been the concerns from pitchers and hitters about the condition of the baseball, and they are generally polar opposites.

All clubs have a supply of Baseball Rubbing Mud. This "mud" originates from the New Jersey side of the Delaware River. The Mud is cleaned and screened before sale.

Each year the owner, Jim Bintliff, visits the mud's source and returns with 1000 pounds of it to store over the winter, and sells it the following baseball season.

Before all MLB and Minor League games, an umpire rubs six dozen or more balls with the "mud" to give them a rougher surface, making them easier for pitchers to grip. (Source: Wikipedia)

Pitchers can ask for and get a new ball at any time.

Hitters can ask that the Home Plate Umpire take a look at the ball currently in the game, to see if it is alright. The umpire can throw it out, or he can leave it.

As you watch MLB games every pitch which hits the dirt, the catcher rotates the ball up for the umpire to replace it, and the umpire most always throws it out. Sometimes he will just put it in his bag to recycle back into the game.

One of the big changes in the game is the amount of money available to MLB Franchises. Early on, one of the decisions made on baseballs was surely cost and replacement. Now, a small portion of the budget in comparison.

Each level down you go, I am sure there are more tolerant rules for the condition of the game ball.

High school baseballs currently cost about $5.00 per ball. Depending on your fields location and surrounding structures, you may need 4 to 5 baseballs, or 12 or more baseballs to get through a game.

School budgets have shrunk to minimal, or have completely disappeared as far as athletics are concerned, leaving it up to the program to earn the monies needed to run it.

All that creates a greater tolerance for game baseball wear and tear. It takes a slice in a ball to get it out of a high school game.

Yours in baseball,

Rick





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