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Have you ever found yourself holding a baseball and just staring at it and all of its intricate details? Perhaps you are just finishing a game of catch with your children when you look down at the baseball and ask yourself, “How much does it cost to make a baseball?”
It is hard to nail down the exact cost of making a baseball. However, Rawlings pays its official Major League Baseball manufacturers in Costa Rica somewhere between $4 and $6 per ball. This would put the overall cost of making a baseball somewhere in the $2 to $4 range.
To learn more about how baseballs are made as well as other topics related to this, keep reading.
What details make up the total cost of a baseball?
Many details factor into the overall cost of manufacturing a baseball. The labor cost only makes up a small portion of the overall cost. The bulk of the total cost is tied up in the raw materials. Here are some of those cost details below:
- Labor– Baseballs must be stitched by hand by a human laborer. Many attempts have been made to automate the stitching process but all attempts to have a machine do the stitching have failed miserably. Most day laborers can stitch between 5 and 6 baseballs per hour and their average salary per hour is $1.10. Using these numbers, Rawlings pays about .18 to .22 per baseball in human labor. The rest of the cost is tied up in raw materials which we will share about below.
- The “Pill”– The pill is a hard piece of cork that forms the center of the baseball. These are made at a rubber manufacturing plant in Alabama and then shipped to Costa Rica.
- Yarn– The rubber ball is then covered with 3 different colors of yarn: Black, grey, and white.
- Cowhide– Cowhide is one of the most expensive raw materials used in making a baseball. Cowhide sheets are sent in bulk to the factory in Costa Rica where a machine cuts out round pieces. Factory workers are then tasked with finding two pieces of cowhide that look and feel close to identical.
How much does it cost to purchase an official MLB baseball?
Official MLB baseballs vary in cost depending on the retail merchant. The range is anywhere from $10 to $25. The average price is closer to $15 each. It is best to shop around to find the best price. However, make sure that you see the MLB Commissioner’s signature, as well as the official MLB logo, stamped on the baseball. These stamps let you know that the ball has been officially licensed by Major League Baseball (see Amazon).
What company makes baseballs for Major League Baseball?
Sporting Goods conglomerate Rawlings manufactures all baseballs for both Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball. Although all Major League baseballs are made in Costa Rica, all Minor League baseballs are manufactured in China. Rawlings was started way back in 1887 in Saint Louis Missouri by the Rawlings brothers (George and Alfred).
Though Rawlings was initially just a sporting goods store, the company got its big break in 1906 when it started making baseball gloves for the St. Louis Cardinals. Rawlings did not start making baseballs until 1955 after Spalding purchased the company. For a total of 22 years (from 1977-1999) Rawlings made a separate baseball for both the American League and the National League. That all ended in the year 2000 when Rawlings decided to make one universal baseball for both leagues. Rawlings also makes baseballs for many popular college baseball teams as well as many Little League Baseball organizations.
Additional Facts about Baseballs
- The “pill” is made of cork and wrapped in a tight rubber. The overall weight of the “pill” must be exactly 7/8th of 1 ounce.
- A machine wraps the pill with 316 yards worth of yarn! WOW! That is a bunch of yarn!
- The cowhide used to make baseballs is given its white color by a delicate tanning process that is completed in a plant in the state of Tennessee. This cowhide undergoes an extremely strict quality control process to make sure there are no defects before shipping to the plant in Costa Rica.
- There are 108 red stiches in one baseball, and it takes the plant worker about 10 total minutes to stitch the entire baseball.
- There almost 7.5 feet of red stitching in a baseball
- It takes a full week for the Commissioner of Baseball and the Major League Baseball to completely dry. The baseballs are put in an air-conditioned room to try to quicken the drying process.
- An official MLB baseball must weigh at least 5 ounces and no more than 5.25 ounces.
- After manufacturing is complete, a bunch of random baseballs are chosen to be shot out of a cannon into a wooden wall. This is part of their quality control process to ensure that the baseballs will react appropriately when being hit by wooden baseball bats. (The workers must make sure the balls can hold up against Mike Trout’s powerful swing hahaha)
- All Major League Baseball teams purchase a specific type of mud from a river in New Jersey. This mud is used to rub down all the baseballs so that the players (mainly the pitchers) can get a better grip on them. Surprisingly, baseballs that are not rubbed down are incredibly slick and difficult to throw.
- Major League Baseball orders approximately 1.2 million baseballs per month from Rawlings
- During the quality control process, if a worker notices a defect, that baseball is sold separately and will not be sent to any Major League team.
What does the phrase “Juiced Ball” mean?
The juiced ball theory started in the 1990’s when the amount of home runs being hit in the Majors went up at a significant rate. Many fans feel that the baseballs made for the MLB are wound tighter so that home runs can be hit more easily and give fans more excitement. Though the juiced ball theory was never proven, it gained a great deal of prominence during the 1998 Home Run Chase between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. During that incredible year, McGwire smashed 70 home runs and Sosa hit 66, both breaking Roger Maris’s record of 61 homers in a season!
Ever since the “juiced ball” rumors started, the Rawlings factory in Costa Rica added increased security measures such as barbed wire fencing and 24-hour surveillance by trained security guards. This was done because Major League Baseball worried about reports trying to prove that the baseballs were altered in such a way to increase the amount of home runs hit in the MLB.
What is the most expensive baseball ever sold?
Although an official MLB baseball can be purchased for around $15 or so, commemorative baseballs are often sold at auctions for outrageously high prices. The most expensive baseball ever sold to date is Mark McGwire’s 70th home run ball which sold for a record-breaking three million dollars! McGwire blasted this amazing homer on September 27 of 1998! McGwire’s record was broken only three years later by Barry Bonds, but McGwire’s home run ball is still the most valuable.