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March 05, 2015

Dirty secret

Major League Baseball's Dirty Little Secret

Over the course of a typical Major League Baseball (MLB) game, the two teams will use well more than 50 baseballs. Some balls go into the stands and become souvenirs for lucky fans, of course, but there are times when the balls simply get so scuffed during game play to warrant a replacement. The baseballs have to be in great condition to be usable — we don't want a low quality ball interfering with the game's outcome.

So you'd expect that MLB games use brand new, fresh-from-the-box ones. They do, but there's a problem with new balls; it turns out that baseballs aren't sold in ready-to-use condition — not, at least, if you're a Major League caliber pitcher. Factory-sealed baseballs are a little too perfect. They're coated in a shiny gloss which makes them look great on a store shelf, but, unfortunately, makes them a little hard to grip, especially if you're trying to throw an 80 mile an hour curve ball through an invisible target the size of a mini-fridge. The baseballs need further processing and care: they need to get a little dirty.

As in: someone needs to literally rub the balls with dirt.

And not just any dirt will do. It has to be special. Luckily, MLB has a connection — there's a company which, every year, provides special mud to the league. Before each game, one of the umpires (or someone from the stadium staff) takes these five dozen or so balls and rubs each and every one of them with a Lena Blackburne Baseball Rubbing Mud, named for a coach who, apparently, discovered this special mud in the 1930s.

Posted by joke du jour at March 5, 2015 06:02 PM

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