On the surface, and even down to their core, baseballs are pretty basic items.
Start with a cork core, add two thin rubber wrappings, cover with about 370 yards of wool yarn in varied thickness and color, adhere a cover of white cowhide with rubber cement and hand stitch exactly 216 times with 88 inches of red thread and one has a completed baseball.
The cork-cored ball was introduced around 1910 and standardized the way baseballs were made. Very few modifications have been made to the design in the 104 years since.
The simplistic breakdown of a baseball does not really convey the role that they play in the culture of the game.
Pitchers try their best to make a baseball move in ways that trick the batters, while the batters are looking for that one perfect pitch to hit out of the park.
The battle over control of the baseball between pitchers and batters lies at the very cork core of the game of baseball itself.
However, not all interactions with baseballs occur between a pitcher and a batter.
Recently two examples of interaction with baseballs within a Ballpark showed how they can be much more than the sum of their parts in the eyes of the beholder.
Our first example takes us to Pensacola, Florida and Bayfront Stadium home of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos of the Southern League.
Last Thursday night before a game against the Jacksonville Suns, Pensacola Blue Wahoos catcher Ross Perez was called upon to catch the ceremonial first pitch.
On the surface a catcher being asked to take part in the opening pitch is really nothing out of the ordinary as they are often called upon to partake in opening ceremonies.
What made this particular first pitch different was the person throwing it.
Perez was surprised to discover that the person throwing the pitch was his father who had come all the way from Venezuela in a surprise visit.
Making the moment more special for the father and son was the fact that the elder Perez had never had seen his son play a professional baseball game.
So, a baseball made of basic materials helped a father and son from Venezuela connect and “have a catch” on a Florida baseball diamond.
The second example of the power of a baseball came from Arlington, Texas and the Ballpark of the Texas Rangers.
In this particular instance, a young male fan received a ball during the game and then proceeded to give it to a woman sitting behind him.
The chivalrous act was caught on camera and the fan had his 15 minutes of fame for giving the ball away.
A closer look at the exchange revealed that a decoy ball caught during batting practice was given to the girl while the young man kept the game ball.
It is fairly common for fans to use decoy balls and this particular fan’s sleight of hand was the sort of thing that would put Penn and Teller to shame.
So, while the ball given to the “cute girl” was not the actual game ball, it is still a nice gesture. It also shows the power of a baseball and the desire to keep the real thing.
These are just two examples of baseballs creating lasting memories and opportunities inside Ballparks.
There are countless more that occur every night in Ballparks of every shape and size. In fact, during the time it takes to read this article, it is likely that several such baseball memories have occurred somewhere in the world.
Individually the pieces of a baseball are nothing special. But, when something as simple as cork and twine wrapped in cow hide is put together they become almost magical under the right circumstances.
Now if you’ll excuse me, all of this talk about cow hide has me craving a juicy cheeseburger with some Heinz 57 and perhaps even some french fried potatoes.
Copyright 2014 R. Anderson