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MLB balls are ridiculously, dangerously bouncy

Posted by John T. Reed on

Article about juiced baseballs in today’s WSJ.
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When I coached Little League, I researched safety and learned that the balls were very unsafe. Reach had developed a much safer ball. It was called a Reduced Injury Factor ball. I interviewed the CEO of that company, an Annapolis graduate.
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I persuaded my local league to use RIF balls in the games my team played in. Then, I outcoached the other coaches so visibly that one of them got angry and decided that I should be punished by forcing my team to play with regular LL hardballs. I think the vote was 3-1 plus 2 abstentions. One who voted to thus punish me was a pediatrician.
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So I tried to find an alternative safe ball. To my surprise, I learned that Major League Baseball were softer than Little League balls. That is, if you put weight on the ball to make it squeeze to a 1/4 shorter diameter, it takes less weight with an MLB hardball than with a LL ball. I did not do the test. I read about the results of laboratory tests.
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Why is the MLB ball softer? It uses wool yarn. The LL ball uses nylon yarn. So I figured the MLB ball was not as safe as the RIF ball but was safer than the LL ball. Plus the MLB ball was explicitly allowed in the LL rule book.
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My team’s parents agreed and pitched in the money to buy the MLB balls. So I did not need league permission.
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At our next game, I showed the balls and the rule to the ump and we started the game using them. After part of an inning, I stopped the game and removed the MLB balls and used LL hardballs. Why?
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The MLB balls were leaping off the bat at such an astonishing velocity that I feared one of the kids would be killed.
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In that game or the next, the opposing coach was the pediatrician who had voted to bring back the unsafe ball. We were using the unsafe LL hardball. My son was playing catcher. An opposing runner tried to steal third.
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My son, who could throw in the 80s, threw a rocket to the third baseman. Anxious to get the tag down, he tried to apply the tag slightly before the ball arrived. He lost his front teeth—permanent ones.
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Would the RIF ball have cause less injury or no injury? Maybe. I asked the Reach CEO and he said the extensive research they did indicated the effect on hitting teeth might result in less injury. The kid wrote a letter to the editor, which was published, denouncing the coaches and the league for forcing him to play with the less safe ball that severely injured him.
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For that situation where my son threw the ball rather than hit it, even the MLB ball might have been less injurious.
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Today’s WSJ article seems to say the increased incidence of home runs has embarrassed MLB and they changed the secret manufacturing process to make the ball slightly less bouncy. They said it would shave one or two feet off the distance the ball would travel given the same impact with the bat.
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The MLB ball is surprisingly and dangerously bouncy. It reminds me of an American handball or a super ball. The super ball has a very high coefficient of restitution. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_Ball
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“...if dropped from shoulder level on a hard surface, a Super Ball bounces nearly all the way back; thrown down onto a hard surface by an average adult, it can fly over a three-story building.” Wikipedia
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And now you know the rest of the story.
GoodDAY.
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