It might seem like official MLB matches only use a few baseballs per match. But umpires and players can change a baseball for many reasons. These reasons include home runs, foul balls, or pure luck. After those events, those lost baseballs will never return to the field. So how many baseballs are used in a game of MLB?
An official baseball’s life expectancy generally lasts two pitches. Therefore, one official MLB match uses about eight to ten dozen baseball per game. With the cost of each baseball to be about US$7, that means that a team spends around US$672 to US$840 on baseballs alone per game.
Let’s go further by understanding that MLB seasons last 162 games. Therefore, the league spends over US$1.5 million per season to buy new baseballs for the players to use.
Why the Need for Many Baseballs per Game?
Over the next couple of decades, the number of pitches thrown by each team is predicted to rise significantly. In 1988, the average number of pitches per game was 135. Since that year, games have been taking longer to play due to the number of at-bats and slugging percentage. These changes happened because of the increasing number of hits and the number of pitches thrown.
Each ball stays in play for less than 6 pitches. When a foul ball is hit, the league replaces that ball. Additionally, that lost ball will never re-enter the official baseball playing field again. If a lucky spectator grabs the foul balls, that person now has memorabilia of that game. A player can request a new ball at any time, and they generally request the baseballs at the discretion of the umpires.
Is MLB Baseball Memorabilia Valuable?
Some MLB baseballs can be worth a significant amount of money. For instance, a 1939 baseball featuring the autograph of MLB legend Babe Ruth sold for over $600,000.
Collectors seek out individual baseballs for events that are memorable in sports history. Another notable example is the 1986 World Series game, where first baseman Bill Buckner of the Boston Red Sox committed an error that led to the New York Mets winning the game. During the 10th inning of Game 3 of the 1986 World Series, Boston Red Sox’s first baseman Bill Buckner came on as a defensive replacement. After Mookie Wilson hit a slow-moving ball, Buckner rushed towards it, but he misplayed it, allowing Knight to score from third base. The Mets won the game and the series 3-2.
Another instance of sports enthusiasts gaining a significant amount of cash from memorabilia was when a baseball was given back to Derek Jeter after he hit his 3,000th career hit. The fan opted to return the baseball. Instead, the individual received a US$70,000 cash reward and gifts.
What are the Dimensions of an Official MLB Baseball?
Are MLB Baseballs Juiced?
The juiced ball theory states that the baseballs used by Major League Baseball were altered to increase scoring. It was first popularized in the 1990s, but the use of steroids later made it less likely to be true.
This theory explains that when a ball hits the bat at a high speed, the ball has more bounce than average, increasing the risk of it hitting other players. Professor Jim Sherwood of the University of Massachusetts Lowell stated that he didn’t find evidence of juiced baseballs during his tests in 2000 and 2003.
Over the years, the juiced ball theory kept popping up in players’ and fans’ mouths, as well as some headlines. In 2019, as the league is on pace to hit over 6,668 home runs, which would break the 2017 record of 6,105, this hypothesis would once again rise to fame.
Additionally, before the 2019 All-Star Game, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said that the balls have a little less drag this year. He noted that the league is working to find out why the balls are getting less drag. Justin Verlander, on the other hand, said that the juiced balls are the reason why the game is getting less offensive.
Nonetheless, it’s difficult to ‘juice’ baseballs because of strict adherences to development guidelines. Additionally, workers can get in trouble if they add or remove substances into the baseballs without the knowledge of the league officials. Check out this video so you can take a first-hand look at the baseball manufacturing process.
4 MLB Baseball Facts You Didn’t Know
In this section, you’re going to discover some of the lesser-known facts about baseball. Some of these tidbits might even be hiding in plain sight. Throughout MLB’s over 130-year history, fans have continuously tuned in to analyze the sport’s various statistical data points to give you the pieces of information you’re about to discover.
A Former NFL Player Created the MLB’s Umpiring System
Former NFL Umpire Jerry Hubbard became a member of the American League from 1936-1951. He joined not as another umpire, but as a player. While in the professional baseball league, Hubbard worked in four World Series and three All-Star games during his career. After suffering a hunting accident that damaged his right eye, Hubbard retired in 1969.
Hubbard, who spent his entire career as an offensive tackle, came up with the idea for the current position of baseball umpires. These locations allowed the officials to gain better views of the field. Hubbard also helped implement the four-man umpiring crew now used in each official MLB match. In comparison, MLB umpires were originally positioned differently on the field, but those locations had issues that ended in miscalls, such as calling home runs instead of foul balls.
Questionable Home Runs
Early in the 20th century, during the Dead Ball era, balls started flying out of the park at a faster than average pace. One of the earliest examples of this was in 1931 when Lou Gherig gained credit with home runs after his fly balls hit the outfield fence to land outside the field.
Have you wondered why MLB baseballs always look dirty? It’s because umpires and clubhouse attendants use a special type of mud to keep the baseballs in top shape. Otherwise, the baseballs will have their ‘brand new’ slick and shine, which can cause pitching and hitting issues.
Take a look at the video below to check this ‘dirty’ little secret:
Each MLB game uses about seven to ten dozen balls per game. That’s about 247,860 balls in a season, which also means the professional baseball league spends a small fortune to replace these lost balls. Some believe that certain individuals ‘juice’ the balls, providing an unfair advantage to specific players and teams. However, no concrete pieces of evidence exist to justify this claim.