SEATTLE (AP) — Pristine white baseballs that would not require rubbing are under consideration by Major League Baseball as a way to solve the issue of pitchers using sticky substances for better grip.
“We continue to work with the people at Dow Chemical on developing a tacky ball,” Commissioner Ron Manfred told the Baseball Writers’ Association of America on Tuesday. “It would literally eliminate all — well, not all — but many of the variables in the current process. It would come out of a sealed foil pouch at the ballpark. No individual mudding.”
MLB executive vice president Morgan Sword said the balls were tested in the first half of this season in the Double-A Southern League. The balls would retain colored stitches.
“Like everything in baseball, when you inch towards a solution, you figure out another problem,” Manfred said. “The baseball, if we get there with the Dow people, would be a pearl, right? A pure white baseball. I think if you take hitters and pitchers out front here and ask ‘em what they think of a pure white baseball, you’re going to find out that it’s a pretty controversial topic. So not only do we have the science that we’re continuing to work on but we’re going to have to get over that sort of policy issue of: Is a pure white baseball a good thing?”.
A minimum 13 dozen baseballs are prepared for each game. Humidors have been used for storage by all teams since 2022.
“The only issue guys are having now is that whatever park you go to, every stadium is different,” Minnesota All-Star pitcher Sonny Gray said. “The elements are different everywhere. Like when you’re pitching in Minnesota when it’s 30 degrees outside for the first month of the season, the balls are going to be hard, cold and dry, rather than when you’re pitching in Cincinnati in the middle of the summer it’s sticky and humid.”
Tampa Bay pitcher Shane McClanahan prefers a pre-tacked ball, such as Nippon Professional Baseball uses.
“We’ve seen that it’s had success in Japan with consistent balls,” he said. “Once we agree upon it as players and whatnot, I’m excited to see what happens.”
Five pitchers have been suspended for 10 games each since MLB began its crackdown on banned grip substances in June 2021 by instituting regular inspections by umpires.
Seattle’s Hector Santiago and Arizona’s Caleb Smith served suspensions in 2021 and three were disciplined this season: the Mets’ Max Scherzer, the Yankees’ Domingo Germán on May 17 and the Mets’ Drew Smith on June 14.
“The suspensions that we have had would fall into the category of clear-to-egregious violations,” Manfred said. “I understand that feeling someone’s hand is inherently subjective. I think this is an area where umpires, again, with a difficult topic, have shown great judgment and discretion. I think gray areas, players have definitely been given the benefit of the doubt.”
Baseballs currently are rubbed with mud to make them less slick. MLB standardized rubbing procedures among the 30 teams last year.