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MLB to test a new “enhanced-grip” baseball in the Southern League in 2023

Apr 4, 2023

Major League Baseball is testing a new iteration of an “enhanced-grip” baseball in the Double-A Southern League this season, which starts Friday.

A similar test was called off early last year after it became clear that the ball being tested was not going to be the solution to lingering concerns about how well major-league pitchers can grip a baseball without resorting to performance-enhancing so-called “sticky stuff.” Changes were made based on player feedback, resulting in the ball that will be tested this year — though implementation at the major-league level would be a long way off and, indeed, might never come to pass if the league ultimately decides that the long-standing process of “muddying” the baseball is better than any synthetic alternative.

Rawlings, which MLB purchased in 2018, makes all the MLB baseballs. But the balls emerge from that process too slick and too shiny for game use. For decades, that has been addressed with the charmingly low-fi approach of having clubhouse attendants hand-rub special mud onto each baseball.

In recent years, several factors have led MLB to look for a superior — or at least more standardized — solution. In the middle of 2021, as offensive numbers reached new lows, the league cracked down on illegal use of substances beyond the prescribed rosin to get a better grip on baseballs because such substances had led to increased spin on increasingly unhittable pitches. The use of sticky stuff was deemed problematic for the way it gave pitchers an added advantage over hitters, but the grip component — nearly necessary in some conditions — is something the league is open to replicating.

Source: Yahoo Sports

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