More significant changes appear to be on the horizon for Major League Baseball, as the league - eager to more consistently enforce Rule 8.02 and eliminate the need for pitchers to illegally doctor the baseball - has commissioned Rawlings to produce a stickier ball with natural tack on the leather, sources told Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.
"We think we're close now," Mike Thompson, an executive vice president at Rawlings, said. "We’re just waiting for MLB to give us the go-ahead on when they want it."
These stickier and brighter baseballs, which don't require the slathering of Lena Blackburne Rubbing Mud every game ball has been subjected to for decades, were used for two days' worth of games in the Arizona Fall League, and though some pitchers found them discomfiting, the reactions were mostly benign.
"You pick it up," said Michael Kopech, the newly acquired Chicago White Sox prospect, "and you thought somebody forgot to do their job."
"I really didn't notice a difference," added Kansas City Royals prospect Josh Staumont. "But at the same time, it’s the last thing you’re trying to focus on. Personally, I don’t have much of an issue with it, so long as we've got enough time to get introduced to it."
These new baseballs wouldn't be introduced at the major-league level until 2018 at the earliest, however, as Rawlings is still playing with several different ideas, especially amid feedback from AFL guinea pigs who noted the extra grip wears off too quickly.
"It requires a lot of R&D and time and testing to land where we want to be," Thompson said. "We’ve got several formulations that are being tanned into the leather, and there’s another process where we’re spraying it on the leather. We’re trying to see which gives us the best outcome."