Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred has recently received harsh criticism for his ‘How to Make Baseball Better’ to-do list, which includes a new strike zone, a pitch clock, and a soon-to-be enforced automatic intentional walk signal.
But MLB’s latest proposal involves a round, white and red-laced ball, which weighs in between 5 and 5 1/4 ounces.
No, baseball purists. The ball isn’t changing weight or color. It just may become a little tackier.
According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, baseball is tinkering with the notion of changing the ball’s cowhide coating, with the hope that it will prevent pitchers and others from using foreign substances on the field.
MLB has commissioned Rawlings, its official manufacturer, to produce a ball with natural tack on the leather in hopes of eliminating the need for pine tar, sunscreen, and rosin, or any other foreign substances whose use in recent years has blurred the legal-illegal line, sources familiar with the project told Yahoo Sports. The balls also would not need a pregame polish of Lena Blackburne Rubbing Mud, the New Jersey harvested muck that for decades has taken the sheen off the pearls that come out of the box.
MLB tested these new-look balls only a few months ago in the Arizona Fall League, according to Yahoo’s report, but the sticky coating Rawlings sprayed onto the ball wore off too quickly. Players also took note of the ball’s bright-white shine, which isn’t seen on baseballs used across the league today.
“Pitching with anything different than something you’re used to takes getting used to,” said Kansas City Royals prospect Josh Staumont, who pitched with the new balls in the Fall League. “My job is to stand on a piece of dirt and throw something. And half of that job entails working with a certain type of ball. But it’s a game of adjustments, so maybe it’s something that will be more beneficial in the long term than the short. Nobody in baseball likes change, though.”
Rawlings, who’s manufactured balls for MLB since 1976, believes they’re making progress on the initiative.
“We think we’re close now,” Mike Thompson, an executive vice president at Rawlings, told Yahoo Sports. “We’re just waiting for MLB to give us the go-ahead on when they want it.”
If a solution is found within the coming months, Yahoo reports that the balls could be used in major league games as early as 2018.