We are reader supported. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Also, as an Amazon affiliate, we earn from qualifying purchases.
Baseball fans have all seen the video of Kansas City Royals slugger George Brett storming onto the field in protest just moments after hitting a home run that was later ruled as an out. It took two umpires and several teammates to restrain him from going after the home plate umpire.
Brett was furious because, after being questioned by the opposing team, it was ruled that the pine tar on his bat went too far up the barrel and was deemed illegal; therefore, his home run was instead an out.
His two-run home run with two outs in the top of the ninth put the Royals up 5-4 against the Yankees, but after being called out, the Royals were set to lose the game 4-3.
The Royals protested this call to the league office and actually won. The game was resumed at Yankee stadium 25 days later and was ordered to begin from the point after Brett’s home run.
Brett’s bat from “The Pine Tar Incident” as it is called is on display at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
Pine Tar is a sticky substance often used to obtain a better grip on a baseball bat. The pine tar can be placed on the bat right above the handle or on the player’s helmet.
Pine Tar is legal to use in the game of baseball, but there are some restrictions on when it can be used and how much of it is allowed. It has been a staple in the game for a long time, and this article will dive into its role in baseball.
What is Pine Tar?
Pine tar, in its most practical form, can be used as a natural wood preserver. It is made from pine trees and can create a water repellent and protective threshold on a wood surface such as a deck or shed.
When heat and pressure are applied to pine wood, the wood decomposes, and pine tar is created.
When using pine tar as a wood preserver, it can only be used on natural, untreated wood. If used on treated lumber, it just sits on the top of the surface and creates a sticky feel. This is not great for the deck in your backyard, but it is perfect for a wood baseball bat.
Pine tar for baseball often comes in the form of a stick that players can rub on their bat or helmet. After a certain amount of time, its stickiness wears off meaning that it must be reapplied every so often.
Legal Uses of Pine Tar
Pine Tar is legal for hitters to use for a better grip on their bat, but rules do limit its use.
Rule 3.02c from the MLB rule book states, “The bat handle, for not more than 18 inches from its end, may be covered or treated with any material or substance. Any such material or substance that extends past the 18-inch limitation shall cause the bat to be removed from the game.”
This is why the umpire originally called George Brett out. The pine tar on his bat exceeded this 18-inch mark. However, the MLB now specifies that a player cannot be called out for violating this rule.
Still, as long as the substance does not exceed this 18-inch rule, players are allowed to use pine tar to enhance their grip on their wood bat.
Players are also allowed to apply pine tar to their helmets. There is no limitation to how much they can use on the helmet. Some players prefer this method as it allows them to touch the helmet to apply the stickiness to their batting gloves instead of the bat itself.
Some players feel that too much pine tar applied to the bat itself weighs it down too much which is why some of them prefer the helmet method.
Illegal Uses of Pine Tar
As discussed earlier, pine tar may not be applied to the bat less than 18-inches from the end of the bat.
Pine tar is illegal altogether when it comes to pitching. The better grip a pitcher has on the ball, the more control he has over the spin of it. Therefore, pine tar is considered to be a performance enhancer and is illegal for a pitcher to use on his hands.
This rule has gotten more publicity this season as the MLB has started to crack down on “sticky stuff” that pitchers use to enhance their grip on the baseball. Umpires now randomly check for illegal substances on pitchers.
When searching for pine tar, umpires often check pitchers’ hats and their belts as well as residue on the baseball itself.
Pitchers who are found to violate the MLB’s “sticky stuff” policy are subject to ejection from the game and possible suspension. “Sticky stuff” includes but is not limited to pine tar.
One of the more popular substances used by pitchers that is now illegal is a mixture of sunscreen and rosin. Neither substance is illegal by itself, but when mixed, the two create enough tack and stickiness to enhance a pitcher’s grip on the ball.
All in all, pine tar used anywhere besides the handle of a hitter’s bat and his helmet is likely illegal.
How to Apply Pine Tar
When applying pine tar to a baseball bat, first make sure the bat is clean of any debris. This will ensure that you get the best results from the pine tar.
Then, take the stick of pine tar and simply rub it on the areas on which you want to apply it. When using it on a bat, make sure not to exceed the 18-inch mark from the end of your bat. Also, you do not need to apply too much tar as it can make the bat heavier.
Most players prefer to apply the pine tar between the 18-inch mark and the handle instead of applying it directly to the handle. This allows them to simply touch the tar to make their batting gloves as sticky as they feel is necessary.
Another way to apply pine tar is with a rag. Sometimes, players put a liquid form of pine tar on a rag and then apply it to the bat by wrapping the rag around the part of the bat they wish to make stickier.
This method is a little messier than using the pine tar stick, but it can sometimes deliver better results as the liquid is often stickier.
Whichever method you prefer, it is important not to get carried away with the amount of pine tar applied to the surface. Too much tar can cause the bat to be too sticky and can actually have negative effects on the hitter’s swing.
Pine Tar Products
Here are some different pine tar products to consider if you are looking for a little extra grip on your bat:
- Tiger Stick! – This product comes in the form of a stick packaged in a wrapper. Players simply just peel the wrapper at the top to apply it to the bat. When using this product, it may be a good idea to put it in a ziplock bag when finished since there is no cap to preserve the stickiness.
- Marucci Pine Tar Stick – Marucci makes a pine tar stick that makes it easy for players to apply to their bat and store after use. It looks like a large chapstick tube and comes with a cap that allows for better storing of the stick for future use.
- Rawlings GPT16 Genuine Pine Tar Can – This can from Rawlings, a trusted baseball brand, is liquid pine tar specifically made for baseball bats. A rag must be used to apply this tar, and Rawlings makes a rag specifically for pine tar that can be purchased along with this can.
When using pine tar for baseball bats, it is important to purchase pine tar specifically for baseball. Other products made for everyday use do not always have the same consistency and will not provide the same results as baseball-specific pine tar.
Alternatives to Pine Tar
There are some other ways to ensure a better grip on the bat besides using pine tar.
One alternative is beeswax. Some companies like Stinger Sports make beeswax on a stick similar to pine tar. It is 100% natural and is supposed to stay stickier longer compared to pine tar.
Of course, another alternative is a bat grip. While it is not allowed at the professional level, some youth players opt to purchase a bat grip for their wooden bat to avoid loading it up with pine tar to give it a better grip.
These bat grips can be purchased separately and are pretty easy to apply by yourself. Keep in mind, the league or tournament you play in may not allow bat grips on a wooden bat although most youth wooden bat tournaments do.
Last but not least, batting gloves (see Amazon) are a simple alternative to pine tar as many quality gloves offer more grip than just the bare hands. Still, some players prefer to use both batting gloves and pine tar for added grip.
While some players have great success with their bare hands and nothing else to aid their grip on the bat, many feel the need to use pine tar or one of these alternative ways to enhance their grip on their bat.
Can I use pine tar on an aluminum bat?
Yes, you can use pine tar on an aluminum bat, but many believe it to be unnecessary as aluminum bats already come with a grip on the handle. Sometimes, adding too much pine tar to an aluminum bat can create a grip a that is too sticky and therefore more difficult to handle.
Can pine tar be removed?
Yes, pine tar can be removed from a bat, but it is not a simple task. You can’t just wash pine tar off the bat. You have to actually scrape it off the bat, and even then, it does not come off easily. This is why you must be very careful when first applying pine tar. Once it goes on the first time, it likely isn’t coming off.
Should youth players use pine tar?
Players younger than high school should stay away from using pine tar. If not applied carefully, pine tar can create a huge mess, and youth players are more likely to make a mess with it. Also, for young kids, it can be dangerous to get in their eyes and mouth, so parents should avoid it with really young kids altogether.