What Does the MLB Do with Used Baseballs?

  • Time to read: 5 min.

Have you ever watched an MLB baseball game and wondered what they do with the used baseballs?

Used baseballs don’t just get thrown into a landfill. In fact, depending on their condition, some get used for memorabilia, others are recycled into future practice games. But that’s just the beginning.

What happens to baseballs after the game is almost as interesting as what happens during the game. This article discusses the real stars of the game, and will tell you where baseballs go after the game is over, how fans can get used MLB baseballs and other interesting facts. 

What Happens to Used Balls?

Sold to Collectors 

If you were a baseball (figuratively!), and if you were used in a great play, then your future would be pretty bright. Baseballs from historic plays often get sold off at auctions to sports collectors. This is usually done through the official MLB website and other auctioning sites. 

A designated authenticator sticks a MLB hologram onto the ball that is tamper-proof, and this ensures the ball remains authentic and carries its own unique serial number which is tracked by the MLB. Now the ball is considered official merchandise. 

Used as Practice Balls 

Balls that have remained in good shape during the game can be recycled for future batting practices for the MLB and are even sent to minor league practice games. Aside from this being a great practice for environmental reasons, it makes use of balls that are still in good shape.

Given to Fans

MLB fans can rejoice! Every MLB game has authenticators who are on duty to watch every ball used in a play. These officers ensure that every ball sold after the game is authentic. Aside from being a tough job, this ensures fans can get their hands on a baseball after the game.

After the game, fans can head to the MLB Authentic Shop to buy game memorabilia. 

Why Does MLB Change Balls?

The MLB team has created a set of guidelines that determine when balls get changed, and these guidelines are upheld by the umpires. Umpires have the responsibility of noticing when a ball has dirt on it, or other surface defects.

One they detect, a new ball is thrown into the game. This is important because hitters need to be able to see each ball being thrown, and dirty balls prevent that. 

Balls get changed because imperfections and dents on the baseball’s surface will most likely affect the player’s grip on the ball and the ball’s trajectory.

These guidelines were implemented after ball-related injuries became an issue.

In many cases, players are very particular about every aspect of the ball used. Some request a new ball if the seams are backwards, others rely on intuition and go based on whether a ball feels right in their hand. 

Why Some Balls Don’t Get Recycled 

While some balls are in good condition to see the light of day, (we’ll call them the lucky ones), others simply don’t make it and aren’t able to get recycled. Why don’t some baseballs ever get used again?

Destroyed in Game

With professional pitchers and batters handling these baseballs, it’s no surprise that in some cases they’ll get destroyed in a play and will have to be discarded. But wouldn’t it be a sight to see tattered balls in the MLB shop?

Batter asks Umpire to Switch Out Ball 

Any player can request a ball to be examined by the umpire if it doesn’t meet standards, and if it fails the umpire’s examination, the ball is tossed. 

Pitched in the Dirt

As sad as it is to say, some balls get lost in the mix, pitched aside in the dirt and never make it beyond the stadium. In some cases they’re hiding in between stands that fans weren’t able to catch. Sometimes they make it out of the stadium (talk about an epic play). 

How Many Baseballs Are Used in a MLB Game?

Take a guess. Don’t worry, after 3 strikes you’re not out. An MLB game is fast paced and it’s easy to forget how quickly and efficiently balls are switched out. But just how many balls are used in a single game?

After tracking a Detroit Tigers- Cleveland Guardians game, The Athletic tracked that a single game uses 8-10 dozen balls. That’s about 96-120 balls used within the span of a few hours!

If a game has extra innings then it will require more balls being tossed into the game.

Let’s do the math for a second. In a single day, thirty MLB teams could use approximately 1,550 balls in a day. 

If each of the thirty MLB teams plays a total of 162 games, then every season has about 2400 games. This means that the total number of baseballs used in a MLB season is estimated to be more than a million ball.

What Are Baseballs Made Of?

Now that we’ve discussed what happens to most MLB baseballs, it makes sense for someone to ask, what are MLB baseballs made of?

While the composition of a baseball has evolved over time, and in fact has been under scrutiny by ball enthusiasts, the general composition is cork, rubber and similar materials. Then it’s wrapped in yarn and covered in cow or horsehide. 

Funny enough, baseball composition guidelines have remained untouched since 1955! Talk about tradition. 

However, there are more standards the MLB has implemented to ensure the baseball’s construction today, and they’re extremely specific about these requirements

The ball must be a sphere with a weight between 142 and 149g, and must have a circumference of approximately 23 cm.

These rules are all ensured and protected in an official MLB rulebook that ensures ball composition is obeyed and regulated by manufacturers.

Conclusion 

The mystery of the used baseball is now uncovered and the good news is that you can even get your hands on it if you’re a hardcore MLB fan. Some balls make it to MLB memory lane, and others go home with fans.