Official MLB baseballs are an iconic symbol of American sports. Every significant moment in the game’s history has a baseball related to it. The ball that Aaron Judge hit for his 62nd home run is worth an estimated $1 million.
These small little objects have so much cache that every year, millions descend upon ballparks in hopes of catching a souvenir from the game.
According to Business Insider, the process of making a baseball starts with a four-inch wide cork sphere which is cased in rubber and treated with a latex adhesive. The pill is then spun with yarn several times, increasing the diameter. This allows for the ball to take a beating from bats, gloves, and the ground.
“Today In 1973: Oakland A’s owner Charles O. Finley’s experimental orange baseball is used in a spring training game for the first time! The idea is ultimately scrapped when batters complain that it is hard to see the seams of the ball.” – @ Baseball by BSmile
Following the treatment of the pill, the ball is then fitted with leather covers, which are then sewn by hand. Each ball has 108 stitches; the fault where the stitching goes is known as the seam. The baseballs are then stamped with the MLB logo and the commissioner’s signature.
Although each ball has over 100 stitches, there is only one seam on the ball. This waves its way around the circumference. Two-seam and four-seam fastballs get their names from appearances of two and four seams to the batter when the pitch is thrown.
Although the balls used to be produced by Spalding in the USA, they are now produced by Rawlings in the town of Turrialba, Costa Rica.
“All official MLB baseballs are made from leather tanned in Tennessee from hides processed in Pennsylvania. Approximately 2.4 million baseballs are made each year from 20,000 hides, about 120 balls per hide” – @ Dept of Agriculture
Following production, the balls are coated in mud. Joe Bintliff, also known as the “mud man”, collects mud from the New Jersey bank of the Delaware river and uses it to coat about 240,000 balls every single season.
Official MLB baseballs, from factory to field
Each team has a minimum of 156 official MLB baseballs on hand to begin every game. That means that in a typical game between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, well over 300 balls could be available. No wonder MLB is happy to let fans take the ball if they catch one.