A Deeper Look into how the Baseball is Made

Written by Kayla Lammers (Sports Writer)

Today, baseball is popular, not only in the U.S. but also in East Asia and Latin America. Baseball is watched and played by many, but how many people truly understand the basics of the most important part of the game: The baseball.    

The MLB has arranged a group of scientists to study their baseballs, after a record number of home runs in the 2019 season. Before now the baseballs were not purposefully altered, but there have been slight inconsistencies due to most of the manufacturing being done by hand, in a factory in Costa Rica.  

The group sent in to investigate reported that the baseballs with slightly lower seam heights and players’ swinging more for the fences were the chief causes for the power surge. 

The changes made on the baseballs will be minor but basically will result in the baseballs being slightly less bouncy, will weigh 2.8 grams less, and be “more in the middle” of the league’s current range.

The stitching on a baseball is not only there to keep the leather pieces together, it also adds what is called drag. The drag makes it harder for the ball to move through the air. That is why lower seams can lead to more home runs, there is less drag therefore easier to go the distance. 

Mud used on baseballs to get rid of shine and a slick surface also reduces drag. Rubbing baseballs with mud before use is important for better grip for the pitchers. A brand new baseball is smooth, shiny, super white, and slick, this all means that it won’t be as easy to throw. 

The way a ball curves is determined by the direction and amount of spin placed on the ball. A solid grip makes pitches much easier to throw. By varying grips, wrist spins, and pitching motions, the pitcher can make the ball curve, rise, drop, change speeds, or just plain go fast. Fastballs usually curve slightly up; curveballs curve down and to the side. Screwballs, with a spin opposite to that of curveballs, break the other way.

With a curveball, the ball curves down and away from a right-handed batter. For a right-handed pitcher, the ball is thrown spin down and to the right. A screwball is the opposite, the wrist and fingers are snapped in toward the pitcher’s body, so the ball curves in and down. The slider is thrown harder than a curveball; with the wrist at a 90-degree angle. When and where a ball starts its curve is affected by the speed at which it is thrown.

The knuckleball is thrown with little to no spin. The minimal spin makes the ball unstable which is why it is so unpredictable. The seams create an uneven flow of air over the surface of the ball, resulting in it being pushed one way or another.

A pitch with a similar, and more reliable outcome, is the spitball. When spit, soap, or vaseline is added to the pitchers’ fingertips, the ball is slippery. That slip can make the ball dip up to two feet. The spitball is now illegal.

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