Book update No. 6 — questions for Rawlings

I’ve been working like a maniac on my new book. (This winter, if you don’t hear from me for days at a time, that’s why.) I’ve written about 41,000 words overall, and I recently interviewed a retired ballhawk who snagged 112 lifetime game home runs. This guy never-ever spoke to the media, so it’s pretty cool that a) he was willing to share his story with me and b) that I was even able to find him in the first place.

Anyway…

rawlings_logo.jpgI’m getting ready to write a section about the Rawlings baseball factory in Costa Rica, and about all the different steps in the manufacturing/testing process. I’ve been talking to some folks at the commissioner’s office, and just today I briefly spoke to someone at Rawlings who offered to answer all my questions.

What I want to know from you is: if you were in my position and you could ask anything you wanted about baseballs, what would it be? How many baseballs are manufactured every year? Who designs the commemorative logos? How are the balls stored in the Missouri warehouse before being shipped out to the teams? C’mon, help me out. Unload your questions on me. Give me some ideas. Don’t be shy. Get crazy and creative and help me add to my own mega-list of things to ask.

I’ve done a LOT of research, so don’t bother sending me links to articles about the factory or the balls. I guarantee you that I’ve read all of it. If you want to read that stuff on your own, fine, but keep in mind that a lot of it is out of date. That’s one reason why I’m glad to be in touch with Rawlings — so I can fact-check and get all the updated info as the book is getting ready to go off to print.

In other/related news, one of my contacts at MLB said that around the second week of January, he should be able to provide me with a list of every commemorative ball that will be used in 2010. Remember those “video game” balls that were being used briefly during BP at Citi Field this past season? He even knows about those. I got the full explanation, and if they ARE going to be manufactured and used again, I’ll hopefully get the inside scoop.

That’s it for now. For previous book updates, see below…

UPDATE #1
UPDATE #2
UPDATE #3
UPDATE #4
UPDATE #5

22 Comments

Where do they buy the leather from? How many MLB baseball do they produce a year? How much money do the teams pay for the baseballs?

-Alex

how do they make it so you can’t tell where the lacing begins/ends?
-Todd
http://cookandsonbats.mlblogs.com

Zack, I would like to know how Rawlings got the contract to produce Major League Baseballs. Spalding for many years were the Official Baseball for the Major Leagues and all of a sudden in the 1970’s Rawlings became the suppliers. Was Major League Baseball unhappy in how the baseballs were being made or did Rawlings just provide a better contract? I would love to hear the real details of this story.

I know that the official MLB baseball is hand stitched, but what about the cheaper baseballs produced by Rawlings? Are they all hand stitched as well, or are some machine sewn? Hand stitching baseballs seem a bit primitive, is there any plan to change the current manufacturing process?

Zack- What is in the VERY CENTER core of a baseball?
-Mike
http://metsandmlb.mlblogs.com/

Zack- What is in the VERY CENTER core of a baseball?
-Mike
http://metsandmlb.mlblogs.com/

I think this is more of a mlb representative question for you to ask your mlb guy. It seems that all the “left over” commemorative balls get dumped on teams to use during bp. It seems to me that the NYC teams get the majority of these left over balls. Who decides what teams get the left over World Series, All Star balls, etc. and is there a warehouse in the NYC area as well? Is this why the NY teams seem to always have these balls? That has been my experience over the years. Whenever the Mets come to SD they always have random balls in the bp bin. Just curious.

Leigh

Their logo tells us Rawlings was established in 1887. Have they always been the official ball of Major League Baseball? Consecutively? Or have there been any lapses in the time that Rawlings was the official ball and MLB tried out the competition for a year or two?

How many licks does it take to get to the center of a baseball?

How much do they pay workers in Costa Rica? Why can’t America’s multi-billion dollar pasttime have the balls made in America? Try asking them a tough question.

are they hand stamped or stamped by a machine? the logos are sometimes wavy or sideways or off center.

Zack,
How much do the balls cost the teams?
How long does it take to make a baseball–start to finish?
Who determines if a ball is unfit to be used? How is that determination made?
It’s cool that you’ll be finding out about the commemorative baseballs. Thanks for the updates on the book.
~Matt
http://bloggingboutbaseball.mlblogs.com/

how many baseballs are made for each team every season, the world series, all star game. why did they stop producing alcs/nlds/ALDS/NLCS balls?

Zack:

What’s the most number of baseballs that have been shipped out to a team in a single year?

What do the teams pay on a per ball rate? And do commemorative balls cost more to a team than regular balls? Who gets the final say on commemorative ball colors and logos and emblems?

Ben

Why does Rawlings use blue ink on the balls? It used to be black when there were balls for each league? Any reason on the change?

Who does the quality control for blemish balls?

Jonathan

Why does Rawlings use blue ink on the balls? It used to be black when there were balls for each league? Any reason on the change?

Who does the quality control for blemish balls?

My questions are about quality control, too. How do they ensure that baseballs are all the “same”….what specifications do they use, how do they measure, do they test every so many baseballs for uniformity? Do they look at home run totals after each season to decide whether to “adjust” the specs on the balls? Who’s in charge of all that, what are their qualifications, are they engineers? Do they ever get anecdotal info from pitchers on what kind of movement that they’re getting on curves, sliders, etc ?
-Dave

Can someone take a tour of the factory, while on vacation in Costa Rica? Is there engineering involved in the design?Who writes the specification for the baseball, is it MLB or does Rawlings provide MLB with their engineered design? Does Rawlings have a lifetime contract or does MLB put a bid out for the official ball occasionally?

How many cows are needed to fulfill one years worth of baseballs?

From end to end, how long is the thread used for the stitching on a ball?

EVERYONE-
Thanks so much for all the suggestions. I won’t answer each comment individually, so just know that I’ve read them all and used your ideas to help me finalize my list of questions. As much as I already know about baseballs, I hope to find out even more in the coming days/weeks/months…

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