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Those new to coaching youth or high school baseball could be somewhat surprised to learn there are different types of baseballs. Diamond Sports produces a great number of baseballs for Little League, youth leagues, and teen-age ball into high school and even college, and here are simple tips to choose between the brand’s DLL-1 vs. DLL-2 vs. DOL-1 baseballs.
Choosing among these Diamond baseballs means starting with the player’s type of league: is it Little League, or “other” type of baseball for kids and young adults? Look at the acronym in the product name, and “LL” stands for Little League, and “OL” stands for “official league,” a clever way of saying “not Little League but close.”
In these models, the number following the letters tells you if the ball is for game play, or purely for practices, including batting practice. Reasons for the differences are outlined below.
For the OL balls, understand that Little League is a national youth baseball organization, while the term “little league” (note the lower-case first letters) is often applied to any type of baseball organization for kids. Hence the LL and OL designations.
Diamond makes OL balls for a number of baseball operations that are not officially involved with the Little League organization ~ but are still designed for play at the collegiate level or younger.
Not All Baseballs are Created Equally
One might assume picking new baseballs is easy, right? Just a small white sphere covered by rawhide (or whatever covering that is) and held together by red stitching.
Wrong. Baseballs can differ in a number of ways, some purposely by the manufacturer, some just naturally by use of inferior ingredients or sloppy manufacturing. What can make them perform differently:
- Core. Is the very center cork, or rubber? Cork balls are more lively. How large is the cork?
- Yarn. What is twisted around the core to create the rest of the ball makes a big difference. Is the yarn high quality? Is it wound tightly, or loosely?
- Hide. Is the covering horse hide, cow hide, or made of a synthetic material?
- Seams. What threads were used to create the seams? And, important for pitching, are the seams high or low?
Some baseball experts argue that weather conditions can impact how a ball performs on the field. For instance in the MLB, during various years skeptics declared that a livelier “rabbit ball” was in play ~ and some suspected poor weather conditions at the Caribbean islands where the balls were produced for the livelier ball.
Details on the DLL-1 vs. DLL-2 vs. DOL
This model is described as “competition grade,” which apparently is a step down from tournament grade noted for regular DLL balls (note no number attached) by Diamond. While many coaches and parents continue to buy this baseball in droves, baseball insiders will say it’s more designed for practice play, with a larger cork center and less twine reducing its liveliness.
This model is described as “competition grade,” which apparently is a step down from tournament grade. Think of it as this: tournaments are designed as competitions among top teams. While many coaches continue to purchase this baseball in droves, baseball insiders will say it’s more designed for practice play, with a larger cork center and less twine reducing its liveliness.
Baseballs in the DOL-1 line by Diamond are considered very high quality. In fact, the company manufactures them for a good number of non-Little League organizations including the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), USSSA, American Amateur Baseball Congress, PONY Baseball, Babe Ruth League, and more.
Note that for the DOL-1, Diamond markets it thusly: “For youth games and high school practices.”
Reduced Injury Factor Baseballs
It is worth noting that regardless of the make or model of a baseball, an additional number may be pasted on them: RIF. It stands for Reduced Injury Factor, and will be followed by a number. A RIF-1 is a little safer (e.g. larger core, softer, etc.); a RIF-10 is very safe.
If you plan to coach baseball, please know going in that you will need a lot of baseballs. For batting practice, especially. Baseballs get lost (foul balls into ivy, for instance), or damaged beyond usefulness.
Baseball manufacturers like Diamond know this, and adjust models accordingly, aiming to make some more durable, or just less costly because they are expected to be lost.
All 3 of the baseball models outlined above are quality baseballs. They just differ in price, from the most-affordable DLL-2, to the DLL-1, and up to the DOL-1. Per ball the price difference is not all that much, but buying by the dozen (typical for baseball coaches) can mean a $5 or more difference in price.
Has Major League Baseball ever changed the makeup of baseballs so they purposely were more lively?
Yes, though the league won’t always admit it. The most famous example might be the very first: switching from a rubber to cork core for the 1910 World Series. Imagine that, playing the championship contest with a ball different than the one used all season! Yes, the new ball helped boost offense; in 1911, the overall batting average in the MLB jumped to .266, up from just .249 the previous season. The average number of runs per game went up by 0.68%.
Do other companies produce balls for Little League?
Yes, including long-standing baseball manufacturers Rawlings, Wilson, and Spalding (which at one point made the MLB’s balls).
Are there baseballs safer for very young children to learn with?
Yes, including balls specifically designated for “tee ball” or “T ball.” These tend to be much softer, some almost squishy. Also, parents can look for “RIF” on a baseball as noted above, for balls designed to prevent injury.
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