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Official Major League Baseball

Michael Marsh
From the Print Edition:
Tiger Woods, May/June 2008

Your dream of pitching in the "Bigs" may have been dashed long ago, but you're still the go-to arm when it comes to throwing batting practice to your kids at the local diamond. And even if your curveball doesn't curve and your fastball isn't fast, you can channel the likes of Tom Seaver by tossing the same ball he did: the official Major League baseball from Rawlings.

The common link between the long and storied history of America's pastime and all its defining moments—from the glorious to the infamous—is the baseball. This American icon and symbol of resiliency has seen little change since the dead-ball era ended in 1920. The only significant change to the ball occurred in 1974 when then-commissioner Bowie Kuhn ordered a change from horsehide to cowhide (equines were in short supply).

If at first a baseball appears uncomplicated, consider all its tight specifications and close tolerances. According to Rawlings, the official and exclusive supplier of baseballs to the Major Leagues since 1977, the baseball consists of a cherry-sized molded cork and rubber pill, which is tightly wrapped in four distinct layers of wool and poly-cotton windings, each layer with a specific circumference. These windings allow the ball to maintain its roundness, even when a hulking slugger the size of David Ortiz puts a bat to it. Then two white, figure-8-shaped cowhide covers are sewn together with 88 inches of red-waxed thread creating 108 stitches. After this the ball is measured and weighed, and inspected for appearance. It's then stamped with the logo of Major League Baseball. From here the baseball faces more tests, including being shot out of a cannon, to make sure it is worthy of the Majors.

In a typical season Major League Baseball goes through 600,000 Rawlings baseballs at an average life span of five to seven pitches each. The company also manufactures balls for the minor leagues, college and high school, and it's safe to say that for $14.99, many thousands more are used in backyard catches and games of "squeeze" and "pepper," sandlot games among rival neighborhoods and all levels of organized ball.

Visit www.rawlings.com.

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