When you look at an MLB game and everything that is happening in baseball, you will see that a lot is going on. Between the batting practice, the game itself, and players tossing the baseballs to fans, many balls leave the field as fast as they came. This makes you wonder, how many baseballs are used in an MLB game?
On average, 120 or 10 dozen baseballs are used every MLB game. The specific amount for each game will vary on how many pitches, foul balls, balls given to fans, home runs, balls that hit the dirt, and balls used in batting practice are lost or deemed unusable.
120 baseballs per MLB game is certainly a lot and will cost the MLB league and teams a lot of money over the season. In fact, one ball used in the MLB costs around $6 to $7. Therefore, $720 to $840 worth of balls is used in a single game.
Anyways, many variables determine exactly how many balls are used within a baseball game. To understand what factors are at play, you need to learn about them more at the close.
Why Does MLB Use So Many Balls?
Generally, the six reasons below will determine how many baseballs are used within a single MLB game. Let’s start from the beginning.
1. Batting Practice
Before anything, note that batting practice baseballs aren’t usually included in the total baseballs used within a game because it’s a practice. Still, I wanted to include it in the list as it’s a considerable part of the puzzle.
Baseballs often used in batting practice won’t be removed as easily as in the game itself. In fact, many batting practice balls come from previous matches that have dirt on them because it isn’t so accurate.
The length of batting practice varies between teams, but it’s always between 1.5 – 2.5 hours before the game. According to ESPN, the Mariners go through around 35,000 baseballs in batting practice within one season, so it’s safe to estimate that the amount is around the same for other teams. That’s a lot of baseballs.
2. Pitch Amount
As said, the baseballs used in the actual game are around 120 baseballs. One of the biggest reasons for such a high number is pitches. The number of pitches thrown in a game will affect the baseballs used.
Generally, there are close to 290 total pitches in the MLB game, which is 145 pitches per team. As an average of 120 baseballs are used within a game, a ball is changed every 2,4 pitches. That’s around two baseballs every five pitches.
Now, if the GAME is way faster than the usual baseball game, fewer pitches have been thrown. Thus, that’s fewer baseballs used, and if the game is longer than usual, more pitches have been thrown, which means more baseballs.
So why are baseballs changed so often? The reason for that is mostly scuffing. When you mix the incredible pitching and batting speeds and the stick MLB quality standards, a baseball needs to be in prime condition every time it’s used.
When the ball is batted with unbelievable speed or hits the rough dirt, the ball’s surface will get scuffed, which is considered an advantage for the pitcher, as he can take a better hold of it. Thus, for the game’s fairness, pitchers need to have fresh balls at all times.
3. Foul Balls
Foul balls, meaning baseballs that are hit outside of the boundaries, often land on the stadium seats or are given to the fans by the players. They are also quickly replaced so the game can proceed.
Naturally, that ball isn’t at play anymore, and a new one is gotten out of somewhere. If a baseball game has a lot of foul balls, the number of balls will increase and vice versa.
4. Home Runs
When a baseball player hits a home run, it’s bound to be a powerful and long swing. Home run balls often land over the outfield fence, which creates an automatic home run.
This is a lucky day for the fans sitting there to go home with a home run game ball. Sometimes the ball doesn’t go over the outfield fence, but it hits on it. This is a powerful swing to buy enough time for a home run often.
So, the number of home runs in a baseball game will affect the total baseballs used because if it’s a home run, the ball is usually gone, and a new one is taken to play.
5. Balls That Touched the Dirt
One of the most strict practices considering baseballs in an MLB game is when they hit the dirt. When a baseball hit’s the dirt, they are immediately thrown out of play. The reasoning behind this is that the dirt will scuff the ball quite much, creating an advantage for the pitcher if used again.
In addition, the dirt can alter the baseball’s trajectory, which is illegal in the MLB rules. As you might imagine, pitchers and batters that have trained thousands of times in that particular situation would have a hard time reacting to a ball that moves unusually.
One of the reasons behind the rule is Ray Chapman’s death, who got hit by the head by a pitch covered in dirt. This resulted in rule 3.01, which states, ”No player shall intentionally discolor or damage the ball by rubbing it with soil, or other foreign substance”.
Because of game fairness and safety, balls that touch the dirt are almost always replaced immediately.
6. Balls Thrown to Fans
In many situations, balls will get game balls. Foul balls are occasionally thrown to the fans by players, home run balls can go to the seats where the fans will fight over it, but those aren’t the only situations fans can receive balls.
At the end of each inning, the baseball is thrown to the fans by players. This has become quite a tradition in baseball, and it’s something the fans are always looking forward to.
Assuming that there are no home runs or foul balls that land on the seats in an MLB game, the fans will get many chances to receive the game ball after each of the nine innings.
What Happens to Used Baseballs After an MLB Game?
The amount of baseballs used in an MLB game often surprises people beyond means because that’s a way higher number than anticipated. Fans who have watched many baseball games will already assume a high number, but people who don’t know will be blown away. This raises the question; what happens to used baseballs in MLB?
Generally, used baseballs after an MLB game will be gathered for batting practice, shipped to minor leagues, or sold in the stadium shop as game-used merchandise, with information about the pitcher, batter, and what happened on the play.
Even when there are strict rules during the game, considering baseballs, they aren’t usually in such a bad shape that they can’t be used at batting or fielding practice. If they are covered in dirt, the dirt will be removed properly.
Depending on the team and situation, a portion of the balls can be shipped to the minor league affiliates to be trained with. That’s because minor league quality standards aren’t as high as the Major leagues, which is more than expected.
Finally, many balls are often sold in the team’s store. The ball’s price will be determined depending on the ball and its pitcher, batter, and what happened to it. For example, if a famous pitcher throws the ball at a famous player at-bat, resulting in a home run, it will be much more valuable than a foul ball from a not-so-known player.
Regardless of what happened to the ball and the players involved, the price is often high and, in extreme cases, mindblowing. However, baseball is the most popular sport in the United States, so many sworn collectors will find great value from the game-used merchandise.
Do They Reuse Baseballs That Hit the Dirt?
Baseballs covered in dirt aren’t something to joke around in MLB. As the ball is immediately taken out of play when they hit the dirt for safety and game fairness, are they ever reused?
Baseballs that have hit the dirt aren’t thrown away but reused in many ways. The dirt-covered baseballs are cleaned by ball boys supervised by the clubhouse manager. Depending on their judgment and the ball’s history, it can be used in practice, memorabilia purposes, or again as a game ball.
However, the ball won’t be used in the same game even if the condition is flawless because it takes time to go through and sort wherever the ball will end up.
Baseballs can also end up in memorabilia purposes for the fans or players. If something special happens on the field, the particular ball will be documented and authenticated to be sold to fans. Alternatively, if the ball were the last throw of a pitcher’s career or something similar, it would often be given to the pitcher as a gift.
Most of the time, balls that have hit the dirt will have some scuff marks, which means that they are illegal to be played in MLB. Thus, most of the time, the balls will be used in batting or fielding practices.
My Favorite Baseball Equipment
Thanks for reading this article. I hope it brought you great value that you can implement into your own life! Below you can find my favorite baseball bat, baseballs, and a glove that I think will take your game to the next level!
- Bat: My favorite baseball bat is the Easton Project 3 Fuze. This bat has a composite end cap, reduced post-impact vibrations, balanced swing weight for the fastest swing speed, and a carbon core that makes this bat perform very well! As I’m not a professional baseball player, I like to use alloy bats as you can swing faster and hit further.
- Baseballs: Rawlings Competition Grade Practice Balls are my choice for something to hit. I love these balls because they fit all levels of play, so regardless of who you are playing with, you can use them. They come in a 6 or 12 balls box, and you can choose between raised or flat seams! I prefer flat seams as the balls tend to fly further!
- Glove: When it comes to the glove, my choice is the Rawlings Sandlot Glove. This glove is available for both lefties and righties. The same glove is also available for infielders, outfielders, pitchers, catchers, and 1B mitt. This glove has a nice vintage look, and it’s made from oiled leather. It has palm pads that protect your hand from impact, and it is pre-broken-in, so you are good to go as soon as you have it! A glove I’m proud to recommend.
- Fan Equipment: If you’re a fan more than a player, you don’t want to miss Fan Equipment by Fanatics. You can find items from various sports that bear your favorite team’s logo, such as jerseys, gift ideas, or other surprising things.