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Expert Advice - Baseballs
Choosing The Right Baseball
Baseballs come in different covers and stitching, each offering their own virtues and drawbacks. But few can tell a ball by its cover, because it's the inside that determines a ball's play. Whether cork or rubber, synthetic or leather, we're here to help you get to the core of which baseball is right for you.
Long-lasting leather covers are the traditional choice because they offer consistent performance, durability, and shape maintenance.
Synthetic covers resist dirt, maintain color, and are less expensive than leather cover. A synthetically covered ball with a top-grade cork may perform as well as a leather ball.
Raised stitching grips air currents and makes the ball therefore easier to control. This type of stitching is good for instruction, casual play, and sharp-breaking pitches.
Rolled stitching is flatter and creates less air-resistance. This is they type of stitching used in major league balls and is ideal for game and everyday play.
A cushioned cork core consists of a cork ball wrapped in a thin layer of premium rubber, wound in wool and cotton thread. Major League Baseballs require windings of at least 85% wool.
Wool windings are critical to a ball's longevity because wool has memory; it returns to shape after impact.
Economical cork-and-rubber or black rubber cores "play" like a cushioned cork ball, but may not last in rigorous use with players putting good wood (or aluminum) on the ball.
Reduced Injury Factor
One of the biggest innovations in baseballs in recent years concerns safety, and R.I.F, or Reduced Injury Factor, balls are evidence of that. These balls replace the "safety" balls of days past by playing as well as they reduce impact.
Made with polyurethane cores in official or reduced weights. Both types won't hit or hurt as hard, thus helping new players overcome their fear of the ball.
Different brands offer different grades of hardness, so you can select a ball appropriate for the age and level of experience.
Unlike old "safety" balls, R.I.F. balls perform like regular baseballs, bouncing and rolling true to expectation.
What's Right for You?
A few key points will help make sure the box of new balls you empty into the canvas bag will be the best and most appropriate for your team:
Age level and type of play: Buy a better ball with a premium, cushioned cork core for experienced players; consider trying more economical cork-and-rubber cored balls for novice players.
Most baseballs are 9 inches in circumference. Under-10 leagues may use a slightly larger ball.
Softballs typically are 12 inches in circumference, while some women's and youth leagues usually an 11 inch ball.
Conditions: Drier weather and consistent game use merit leather-covered balls; wetter conditions and more practice use may mean that synthetic covers are perfectly adequate and economical.
Future: A Reduced Injury Factor ball bought today and hopped off an 8-year-old's chest tomorrow may lead to the next Big League phenomenon, rather than the next non-baseball player.
Buying a Ball
Balls come in different sizes, materials and hardness.
Most baseballs are 9 inches in circumference
Leagues for under-10 year old players may use a slightly larger ball
Softballs typically are 12 inches in circumference, while some women's and youth leagues usually an 11 inch ball
Balls are manufactured out of leather or synthetic leather. There are also safety balls for younger players.
Leather is used in the Major Leagues and other upper-level leagues
Synthetic leather is used primarily for balls in the Little League age group and younger
"Safety balls" are engineered to play like a real ball without the sting of a hard ball. Known as "Reduced Injury Factor" or RIF balls, they roll and bounce like their harder cousins, but don't hurt as much if the player gets hit.
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