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Best Baseballs

Updated August 2018
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 23 Models Considered
  • 9 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 122 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best baseballs

    Last Updated August 2018

    The game of baseball is called the national pastime, and the simple baseball is one of the most important components of that pastime. What you might not know is that there are many different types of baseballs, and picking the right one depends on your needs.

    If you’re looking for practice baseballs for your kid’s T-ball team, you need a far different piece of equipment than the ball needed by a Major League Baseball team.

    That’s where BestReviews can help. We have put together this baseball shopping guide that explains the different materials, costs, and other factors you need to know about various types of baseballs, whether you’re looking for a signed souvenir from your favorite professional player, a ball for your weekend league, or a practice ball to use in the backyard.

    A signed Babe Ruth home-run baseball from the 1933 Major League All-Star Game sold a decade ago for $800,000.

    Official baseball specs

    To be considered an official baseball, the balls must adhere to certain specifications, including the following:

    • Circumference: 9 to 9.25 inches

    • Diameter: 2.86 to 2.94 inches

    • Weight: 5 to 5.25 ounces

    • Stitches: 108 red stitches
       

    Before purchasing baseballs for game play, make sure you understand your league’s rules for baseball specifications, especially regarding the style of the seams. Some leagues require certain certification stamps on the ball, too.

    Also understand that some baseballs aren’t designed to be official balls. These include T-ball baseballs, which have a soft exterior, or weighted baseballs, which are used for training. These have different dimensions and weights than official balls.

    EXPERT TIP

    Many youth and pro teams use new baseballs only for games. Baseballs that have been used for a while are then transitioned for use in practice.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Official baseball materials

    Even though official baseballs all look basically the same, the balls consist of a few different materials. Here are the common materials used in different parts of the baseball designed for practice and game play.

    Cover

    The baseball cover consists of two pieces of either leather or a synthetic material shaped like an elongated number eight. When the pieces are laid in place and stitched together, they completely cover the spherical interior of the ball.

    • Leather: Most baseballs are made of cow leather, which offers a more secure grip than synthetic materials. Leather balls last longer than synthetic balls, but the durability difference between the two is less now than it was several years ago.

    • Synthetic: Most synthetic covers are a type of vinyl. Synthetic covers resist dirt and grass stains better than leather, meaning the ball will look newer longer. Synthetic baseballs cost less than leather balls.
       

    Stitching

    The red stitching on a baseball looks the same from ball to ball, but manufacturers offer three different styles. Your baseball league will have rules on the type of stitching it allows.

    • Raised: Younger players use baseballs with raised seams. Higher seams enable the player to grip the ball better and spin the ball faster. A pitcher wants to put spin on the ball, causing it to move slightly as it approaches the batter.

    • Rolled: A rolled seam is slightly raised above the surface of the ball. It enables a little less grip and spin than a raised seam. However, experienced pitchers can still spin these balls successfully. Players use baseballs with rolled seams in higher-level amateur and professional baseball leagues.

    • Flat: Some baseballs have seams that lie flat on the surface. This style is most often used in a pitching machine. (Pitching machines also use specialized dimpled balls.) A baseball with raised or rolled seams won’t work well in a pitching machine because the seams catch on the machinery. Leagues rarely use flat-seam balls for game play because the flat seam is harder to grip, making the ball harder to control.
       

    Outer Core

    The outer core, or windings, is the extremely thick layer directly under the cover. It consists of layers of wool yarn tightly wound around the inner core. While wool yarn sounds like it would be soft, it’s wound so tightly that it gives the ball a hard feel. Tight windings enable the ball to spring off the bat.

    Some youth-level baseballs have a looser style of windings, giving the ball less speed and power off the bat and making it a safer type of ball for younger defenders.

    Some baseballs use cotton for the windings, but these balls are considered to be of a slightly lower quality than those with wool yarn. A ball with cotton in the windings layer will lose its shape sooner than a ball made with wool.

    Many baseballs use both wool and cotton to save manufacturing costs. Official MLB baseballs use at least 85% wool yarn.

    Inner Core

    The center of the baseball consists of a cushioned cork inner core about the size of a large marble or grape. There are typically a couple of layers of rubber molded around the cork core. You might find some lower-quality baseballs that have a rubber core. Some balls use a cork and rubber blend for the inner core, but cushioned cork is the preferred material.

    Cheap baseballs might have only a large rubber core and no windings. These balls work adequately for practice, but they’re not desirable for game play.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Early baseballs were not uniform in shape or weight because many different substances were used for the center core.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    The white color of the baseball comes from using an alum tanning process on the cowhide.

    Baseball types and prices

    There are different types of baseballs for different uses, from pitching machine practice to youth league games to major league play. Baseballs vary widely in price, too, from about $1 to about $15 apiece. For baseballs designed for game play or practice, you’ll save some money by purchasing balls in bulk. Retailers commonly sell baseballs by the dozen, although larger quantities are available, too. Collectible baseballs are a whole different category. You could spend $1,000 or much more for a souvenir ball.

    New baseballs: Most baseballs designed for youth leagues or adult recreational leagues are sold by the dozen, running $25 to $60 for a box (about $2 to $5 per ball). You also can purchase baseballs in buckets of two dozen to five dozen that cost $1 to $3.50 per ball. Most of these balls work well for game play or practice.

    Training baseballs: Some retailers offer heavier training baseballs designed to help players develop arm strength for more velocity when pitching or throwing. Individual weighted training baseballs can cost $8 to $15 apiece. Sets of these baseballs cost $25 to $75, depending on the number of balls included.

    Pitching machine baseballs: Dimpled pitching machine baseballs are available for $1.50 to $3 per ball (in a box of a dozen).

    Soft baseballs: Soft-sided balls, also called safety balls, are made for younger players, such as T-ball players, and cost $2 to $5 apiece. These baseballs are also available in boxes of a dozen, costing a bit less per ball.

    Official MLB baseballs: A single official baseball designed for Major League Baseball game play could cost $10 to $15 at retail. For a box of a dozen, you’ll probably pay $60 to $90.

    Souvenir baseballs: Official MLB baseballs printed with special souvenir logos or signed by players go for anywhere from $10 to $1,000 or more. These balls are designed as souvenirs or collectibles rather than game play, but they could be used for play.

    Each year, Rawlings makes between 1.5 million and 2.5 million official MLB baseballs in Costa Rica. The balls are used for game play, practice, and souvenirs.

    FAQ

    Q. How is an official professional-level baseball made?

    A. The baseball consists of a cushioned cork center core that weighs roughly 0.88 ounces. The manufacturer then wraps two rubber layers around the cork before adding primarily wool yarn (and a small percentage of cotton yarn). The wool is wound around the core by machine to create uniform tension. Each ball might contain thousands of linear feet of thin wool yarn. Finally, the manufacturer uses adhesive to attach two pieces of cowhide leather to the wool yarn to create the exterior of the ball and stitches the leather together.

    Q. Why do some baseballs appear to be off-white?

    A. As baseballs are used, they take on a grayish or brownish color. The exterior of the ball may also pick up grass stains. Game officials often rub new baseballs with a special type of mud to make the balls less slick and enable players to grip the ball better. If you see baseballs that look off-white, even when first put into play, it’s because of this mud. MLB baseballs only use mud from the Delaware River in New Jersey.

    Q. What are some nicknames for the baseball?

    A. Baseball has developed quite a large number of nicknames for the ball itself over the years. “Hardball” may be the most common baseball nickname, and it probably originated to differentiate baseballs from softballs. A ball may be called a “horsehide,” referring to what baseballs were made of many decades ago. A baseball might also be called a “pill” or a “seed,” but these also refer to balls that are thrown especially hard and on target.

    Q. How long will a baseball last?

    A. A well-built baseball should last for several hundred bat strikes before falling apart. However, baseballs might begin to show scuffs, loose seams, or general wear and tear after as few as a dozen uses, depending on what objects they happen to strike. In a major league game, where spectators can keep balls hit into the stands, the average ball stays in play for seven or eight pitches.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Bronwyn
      Bronwyn
      Editor
    • Devangana
      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Kyle
      Kyle
      Writer
    • Melinda
      Melinda
      Web Producer