Saturday, August 17, 2013

Day 139: The Anatomy of a Baseball

What is it about a baseball that makes it so nice to hold? The feel of the leather? The raised stitches that provide just a little something to grip on to? Or maybe it's the size—how it fits perfectly in the palm of your hand? And it's a size that never changes from Little League to the Major Leagues. It's also aesthetically pleasing with it's bright red stitches and stark white covering—the most attractive ball in my opinion.

When I first got my own car, I tried to come up with a really cool baseball reference to put on my license plate. I came up with 108SIAB but I never actually used it. I'm not sure many people would get it and I know how frustrated I get when I can't decipher a vanity plate, so I opted not to do it. If you haven't figured it out yet, that would be 108 Stitches in a Baseball.

Since the early days of the sport, the baseball has been pretty much unchanged. The ball contains a rubber or cork center wrapped in yarn (up to one mile in length) and covered in leather. Major League standards call for a ball that is 9" to 9 1/4" in circumference or 2 7/8 to 3" in diameter and weigh 5 to 5 1/4 ounces. There are 108 double stitches on a baseball and the height of the seams can affect pitches.

As with any type of ball, materials also affect its performance. The tighter a ball is wound, the faster and farther it will fly. With today's advances in the production of baseballs, balls these days appear to be "juiced"—unlike the baseballs back in the early 1900's or the dead-ball era.

In the major leagues, the lifespan of a baseball is short, on average it lasts somewhere in the vicinity of 6-7 pitches. Often times the ball is just batted or tossed out of play—a foul ball, a home run or a fielder lobbing the final out to someone in the stands. Other times it's at the request of the pitcher. The ball gets cut or scuffed so it gets discarded to use for batting practice.

There's no better sound than that of a baseball cracking off of a wooden bat. Or the thwump of a 96 mph fastball hitting the catcher's mitt. Baseballs are my favorite.

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