If you have ever watched a game of baseball, then you will likely have noticed that the balls are switched out very often. This may lead you to wonder how many baseballs are used in a season. Let’s answer that for you, shall we?
On average, you can expect around 120 balls to be used per MLB game. With 2,430 games per season, this means that (at minimum), around 340,000 balls are used during official MLB games.
Let’s expand on this a little bit. We are sure that you are itching to know what happens to the balls that have been used, as well as how often the balls have to be switched out.
How Many Baseballs Are Used In a Season?
As we said, an MLB season will be getting through at least 340,000 baseballs. That is just for the balls that are used on the playing field.
What you have to remember is that each and every ball that hits the field has to be fresh. It cannot be used at all before the game. The umpires will inspect them to make sure that this is the case.
Of course, since those balls can’t be used before the game, baseball players need other balls to practice on. It isn’t uncommon for another 340,000 balls per season to be used just for practice. In fact, the figure is likely to be much, much higher than this. These balls are going to be replaced with roughly the same frequency that they would be replaced out there on the field.
Game Prepared Balls Not Used During The Game
Every ball that enters the game has to be ‘game-prepared’. This means that the umpire prepares them to make it easier to grip. In the past, the players would have done this. However, back in the 1940s, this would often involve rubbing mud on the balls but, obviously, that is not allowed in the sport as it would make the balls difficult to spot.
If a ball has been prepared for use in the game, then it cannot be used in another game. This is classed as a ‘game-used’ ball. We will discuss what happens to those in a short while.
However, you have to remember that not all game-prepared balls are going to be hitting that field. You may not see it when you are watching a game of baseball on the TV, but batters and pitchers that will be called onto the field at some point will be warming up in the bullpen. Here, they will be smashing a lot of balls. Potentially dozens of them (although, not at a pace that would wear them out before the game!).
This means that potentially dozens of game-prepared balls will be used in the bullpen. Although, we do want to point out that these balls are not going to be prepared by the umpire. They are going to be prepared by the team, and they can’t actually be used in the official game.
Can The Same Baseball Be Used For Multiple Pitches?
Yes. It happens in baseball games, but the ball doesn’t last in play for too long. On average, a ball will remain in play for around 6 pitches.
The rules for MLB allow a ball to be used for multiple pitches. However, the rules are also incredibly strict regarding whether a ball can be used again.
As you can probably guess, the batter needs to have a clear view of the ball that is hurtling toward them. As a result, any ball that has mud, scuff marks, etc. on it must be removed from the game.
Because of this, most pitchers will be switching out the balls for every few pitches that they throw. It helps to prevent issues out there on the field.
There are three situations where the used baseball must be removed from the game:
- If the pitcher requests a change of balls. They do not have to give their reasons for requesting a change. As long as they toss out the old ball, then a new one can be used.
- If the ball leaves the field of play for any reason at all. This means every time a player makes a home run or hits a foul ball.
- If the umpire decides that the ball can no longer be used. They will regularly check the balls, and if there are any marks on it (including discoloration), then the ball is removed from the game.
Why Can’t Used Baseballs Be Used Again?
Technically, they can. Just not in any sort of major competition.
The problem is that once a ball has been hit, it starts to develop scuff marks. If it hits the ground, then it is going to develop mud marks. Both of these can make the ball very difficult for the batter to see.
In addition to this, once a ball has been hit, it takes some of the ‘bounce’ out of it. This means that the next time that ball is hurled toward a person, it is going to feel different to hit. It is going to be almost unpredictable. If you have ever played with a baseball, then you will know that, over time, hitting that ball feels very different. This is exactly the same thing as what would happen in the major leagues, and batters really want the way the ball moves to be predictable or it can throw their whole game plan out of the window.
You may find that the balls are used in practice by the MLB team, but only if the ball is in a good condition.
What Happens To Baseballs Used During The MLB Season?
They aren’t just thrown away, thankfully. That would be a waste. However, what happens to the balls will vary on the team. The current condition of the ball may also be taken into account too. For example, if a ball is in poor condition, then it probably will be thrown away. If it is in a condition where it can probably be used for practice, then it will be given to another team (or even used by the team that paid for the ball in the first place!).
Remember, once a ball has been designated for use in a game, it cannot be used in an official MLB game again. This makes sense. The balls that are used in an MLB game have to be officially prepared by the umpire in charge. If they did not oversee the preparation of a ball, then it cannot be played with. A game-prepared ball will feel much different from a ball that is fresh.
In many cases, game-used balls will end up being autographed and sold to the fans. Only a few balls will end up like this. There probably isn’t enough demand for autographed balls to end up like this. However, there will be a good chunk of balls reserved for autographing. The balls will then be added to the baseball team’s store,
There are some balls that may not be autographed and sold as ‘game-used’ balls, although this is quite rare.
Sent To Minor Leagues For Practice
The vast majority of the game-used baseballs will be sent down to the minor leagues. Every MLB team will have a minor league team that they are affiliated with, and those balls will be sent to the minor leagues so that they can be used for practice.
It is important to note that these used baseballs are only ever going to be used for practice in the minor leagues. They still cannot be used for games because of the scuff marks, and the fact that the balls may ‘hit’ a little differently.
Used During Batting and Fielding Practice
While this doesn’t seem to be the case for every single team, there are many that will reuse the balls for batting and fielding practice. This is assuming the balls are in fairly decent condition. For example, it is unlikely that they are going to be doing this if the balls are scuffed or marked in any way. However, if the game-prepared ball never hit the field of play, it makes sense to use them like this.
Remember, each ball costs the team around $10-$12 per piece. Sure, the MLB is the richest sports league in the world, but they really don’t want to be throwing away cash like this unless it can be avoided.
On average, you can expect about 1,000,000 baseballs to be used by baseball teams over the course of the season. In actual games, there are likely to be around 340,000 balls that are used on the field. However, there will be a ton more used during practice. It is hard to know exactly how many. These balls will often be sold to fans, or, in most cases, sent directly to the minor leagues so that they can use them during practice.