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There’s something magical about sitting in the stands of a Major League field, hot dog and soda in hand, cheering on your favorite team, waiting for a chance to catch a foul ball. But chances are, you probably haven’t thought about how many baseballs are used during a single MLB game, or what the lifespan of a typical baseball is. It may surprise you to learn that once a baseball makes contact with the dirt or with a bat, it's done. In fact, during a Major League Baseball game, baseballs are replaced every three to seven pitches, on average.
A pitcher can request a new ball at any time during a game. Over nine innings, an average of 84 to 120 baseballs are used. Balls that are discarded cannot be reused in another MLB game. Instead, they are authenticated and sold in official merchandise shops, at auction, used in Hall of Fame displays, or sent down to the Minor Leagues for batting practice.
Wild pitches and passed balls are the most common reasons why balls are replaced. Umpires may also discard a ball if they believe it was deliberately damaged or tampered with by a player. Interestingly, a scuffed baseball or one that has hit the dirt can give a pitcher an advantage, as it influences the trajectory of a ball.
- Rawlings Sporting Goods Company has been the only official manufacturer of MLB baseballs since 1977. They produce approximately 2.4 million balls per year.
- Approximately 200,000 to 300,000 baseballs are used during each Major League Baseball season. At an average cost of around $7 per ball, that’s a huge cost for MLB.
- Pitchers are prohibited from tampering with a Major League baseball in any manner. This includes spitting on their glove, hand, or ball, rubbing the ball on their uniform or glove, or applying a foreign substance to the ball.
- On August 16th, 1920, New York Yankees pitcher Carl Mays pitched a dirty, grimy ball to Cleveland Indians player Ray Chapman. The ball hit Chapman in the head, ultimately resulting in his death. It has been theorized that if the pitcher had thrown a clean ball, Chapman would have had a better chance of reacting.