CC Sabathia: MLB continues to find right pre-tacked baseball; Japan not giving up their formula
CC Sabathia will not be getting back on the mound anytime soon, but he is behind the scenes with MLB trying to help those that still grind innings that start and end with umpires checking for sticky substances.
The league’s crackdown on banned substances that pitchers use to get more control and have more movement on pitches came hard midway through the 2021 season. However, those pitchers also urged MLB to figure out how to mitigate the problem.
The issue still persists today, but Sabathia, who serves in an advisory role to MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, told Fox News Digital the league continues to work with Dow Chemical to find a new tacky baseball.
“We have like 15 PhDs working on it at Dow Chemical,” Sabathia said before playing some golf in his PitCCH In Foundation’s 3rd Annual Charity Golf Tournament. “We had a ball this year that was pretty good. It was tacky when it came out of the wrapper. But then it got too gummy down in the heat in the Texas league. They’re trying.”
This innovative ball was used in the first half of the season in the Double-A Southern League, but as Sabathia mentioned, heat was not friendly to it.
The ball, which still has its red colored stitches, comes packed in a sealed foil pouch that gets unwrapped at the ballpark. The packaging resembles what Japan’s Nippon Professional baseball and the Korea Baseball Organization use with their pre-tacked balls.
That ball has been widely liked by those who use it, including Los Angeles Angels pitcher Matt Moore, who played in Japan in 2020.
“I really liked the ball,” Moore told Yahoo Sports in 2021. “When they first come out of the package, they’re in a tin foil package, and then they’re inside of a plastic package around that. So when you first take it out, it pretty much feels like a new ball — like the leather is not sticky — but the more you play catch with it, the easier it is to get a grip on it.”
Sabathia knows Japan has concocted the right baseball recipe, but they are not willing to give it up.
“In Japan, they got the ball. They got it figured out, but they’re not helping us out,” Sabathia explained. “They do not want to give up the secret.”
Sabathia also pointed out the appearance of the baseballs that are being tested. Pearl white is the color of the balls instead of the regular mudded-up look that MLB has used for years.
Sabathia said pitchers are not liking the color.
“I think one of the biggest things as we go around and talk to players and teams, pitchers are reluctant about the ball being pure white,” he said. “If you think about it, we never play with a white ball. … It would be a big change if the ball came out of the wrapper. So just trying to figure all that out.”
Why does this research and testing matter so much for pitchers? Having a uniform ball that provides a good grip results in confidence on the mound, and believe it or not, in the batter’s box.
“If you have something you just make uniform, that you know you can get a good grip and throw the ball, it just makes a huge difference. And hitters feel more comfortable because you don’t want balls getting away from guys,” Sabathia said.
Since the implementation of sticky stuff checks by umpires, six players have been suspended 10 games each, starting with Seattle’s Hector Santiago and Arizona’s Caleb Smith in 2021.
This season, two New York Mets pitchers, Max Scherzer and Drew Smith, were docked suspensions, while New York Yankees’ Domingo German and San Diego Padres’ Robert Suarez were also disciplined.