MLB considering using stickier baseballs, cracking down on foreign substances
Major League Baseball is considering the possibility of introducing a new ball at some point after the upcoming season, and it may take some getting used to for pitchers.
Sources told Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports that MLB has tasked Rawlings, its official baseball manufacturer, with designing a ball that has natural tack on the leather. The goal with a naturally “sticky” ball would be to eliminate the need for pitchers to use substances like rosin, pine tar and sunscreen to doctor the baseball. The balls would also not need to be rubbed down in a special mud before being put into circulation.
The tackier balls have already been tested at the Arizona Fall League, and pitchers were concerned about the change.
“Pitching with anything different than something you’re used to takes getting used to,” Kansas City Royals prospect Josh Staumont said. “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.”
Staumont said he actually didn’t notice a difference, whereas Chicago White Sox prospect Michael Kopech said the balls felt like “somebody forgot to do their job,” meaning there was no mud rubbed on them.
Rawlings is still trying to perfect the ball, and it would not go into circulation any earlier than 2018. There were already complaints at the Fall League that the extra grip, which was sprayed onto the balls, wore off too quickly.
“It requires a lot of R&D and time and testing to land where we want to be,” Mike Thompson, an executive vice president at Rawlings, explained. “We’ve got several formulations that are being tanned into the leather, and there’s another process where we’re spraying it on the leather. We’re trying to see which gives us the best outcome.”
There are MLB rules that are supposed to prevent doctoring the baseball, but pitchers are constantly using something to get a better grip. We even saw the issue arise when a pitcher had a foreign substance on his glove during a World Series game a few years back. Like with any significant change, you can expect major opposition from baseball traditionalists.