Differing Baseballs

THIS is a baseball...or is it?

This is a baseball…or is it? (photo by Mizuno)

With the New York Yankees coming to a not-altogether-surprising, massive-contract agreement with Masahiro Tanaka, it has been interesting to learn there is a difference between the baseballs used in Japan and North America.

“‘It breaks better, moves more advantageously for the pitcher,’ Hisashi Iwakuma of the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, speaking in Japanese, said of the new [standard-Japanese] ball. ‘Whether you throw a fork or a curve or a slider, the break is bigger. Even your fastball doesn’t have to be perfectly straight; you can make it miss the sweet spot of the bat.’ Iwakuma said pitchers could manipulate the slightly lower height of the red stitches and their slightly wider spread.”

According to the New York Times, source of the Hisashi quote, in 2011 Japanese leagues standardized the ball used.

This begs the question whether Tanaka’s devastating splitter (a hard-thrown pitch that breaks straight down and requires a first-rate catcher to handle) will work in Major League Baseball, with its different Rawlings ball. These baseballs had been made in Haiti then Costa Rica; there is some further question where North American balls are manufactured in 2014.

Regardless of places of manufacture and differences in baseballs—cricket balls feature perhaps more and greater variety—some Japanese professionals find it difficult to pitch in the North American leagues: cf. Kei Igawa. Of course, the reasons and variables are almost infinite.

Check out how the Rawlings baseball is made….

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About rightoffthebatbook

Co-author of the book, "Right Off the Bat: Baseball, Cricket, Literature, and Life"
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