If you haven't been out to the ballpark lately, you might not realize how aggressive fans have become about taking home a baseball. It's not just about home runs and foul balls anymore. No, sir.
It's about pestering every outfielder after he catches a ball for the third out of the inning. It's about shaming outfielders into tossing you the ball they played catch before the start of the inning. It's about riding the poor bat boy until he flips you a ball (or two).
This has changed since the 1994 strike. Since then fans have gotten more aggressive and players and teams have become more accommodating.
Recently, because it's become so over the top, I've wondered what this costs, how many balls teams go through, and a number of other things. Fortunately, through SABR-L, an email service available to SABR members (a SABR-L subscription alone is worth the membership dues), I came across an article recently that discusses all of that, and much more. Here are some of the highlights (the full article is definitely worth a read):
- Price: "At a negotiated price of $72 a dozen, including taxes and shipping, the major league tab for baseballs comes to at least $5.5 million a year, which, to keep things in perspective, is less than the median salary of a New York Yankees player." I would have never guessed that major league teams paid $6 per ball. That's about what they go for at Sports Authority.
- Quantity: "In the May 13 contest, on a velvety cool Friday evening at PNC Park, the Pirates and Brewers used 104 balls, which is about 15 fewer than in a typical home game, according to Pirates equipment manager Roger Wilson."
- BP: "That doesn't count the 14 to 15 dozen (168 to 180) baseballs Wilson sends out for batting practice for each home game."
- Baseball usage (for the 5/13 game): "Foul balls, 32; foul tips, 24; balls exchanged by the home plate umpire, 19; balls tossed into the stands by players, 13; balls carried off by fielders as their half inning ended, 8; balls exchanged at the pitcher's request, 4; home runs, 1; wild pitches, 1; and flukes, 2, once when an errant pitch hit Cota and once when Brewers catcher Chad Moeller plinked Daryle Ward's bat trying to throw the ball back to the pitcher." I'm so glad that someone else did that tracking. I'm glad to see the breakdown, but would have never tallied it myself.
- What gets ordered: "Equipment manager Wilson said that, each season, he orders 300 dozen baseballs a month and 750 dozen for spring training, which is more than 30,000 baseballs a year." Three hundred dozen is a cool thing to say. Maybe one day I'll walk into Krispy Kreme and order three hundred dozen donuts.
- Life in MLB: "These days, Wilson estimates, a ball lasts about eight days in the majors. It is used only once in a game. Then it is relegated to batting practice, where it's used once or maybe twice, if it's not too beat up. From there it goes to the indoor batting cages under the stands for four or five days, and then Wilson ships it to one of the Pirates' minor league franchises, which will use it for practice until it's worn out." One more reason to make it to the show.
- This part must be made up: "He has a dishwasher-size machine called a "renewer" which can add a few days of life to some balls if they're merely scuffed. The renewer is a tumbler filled with chunks of gum eraser, which helps remove some of the grass and dirt stains."