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RAILRIDERS: New Ball Game

September 2, 2018

MOOSIC — The differences, Tyler Wade says, are noticeable. Big league baseballs are harder. Triple-A ones have smaller seams.

“I feel like every time you come down here, you can tell a dramatic difference,” the RailRiders shortstop said.

That won’t be the case next season.

The International League and Pacific Coast League will switch to MLB baseballs next season, a request made by Major League Baseball.

“It will be a baseball that is identical to that as the major leagues,” International League president Randy Mobley said.

News of the change first came when Mobley appeared on a Durham Bulls broadcast a few weeks ago. RailRiders team president and general manager Josh Olerud said the new baseballs will likely double the cost the team is responsible for.

“It will be stamped with International League just like the current balls are stamped, but the ball it will be stamped on will be the same ball as is being used in the major leagues,” Mobley said.

MLB baseballs have come under scrutiny recently, with home runs numbers and exit velocities skyrocketing, leading to claims of the balls being juiced. Major League Baseball commissioned a study to examine the baseballs, and while the committee determined the balls experience less drag, it could not point to a reason why.

“The ball’s going to go farther,” Wade said of the MLB baseballs. “You’re going to impact more baseballs, you’re going to have more doubles, you’re going to have more room for error. I think there’s a big difference, just the way they feel. They’re softer (in the minors). It’s weird, man. It’s hard to explain, but you can definitely tell the difference.”

Pitchers will likely experience the biggest change. Luis Cessa, who has appeared in 37 games over the last three seasons with the Yankees, said the seams on minor league baseballs are more pronounced and the ball itself feels smaller. Seams in the big leagues are tighter.

“I know a couple pitchers have really good stuff with the ball here and when the go to the big leagues, maybe (they’re) in trouble because they don’t have the same grip on the ball,” Cessa said. “I think the difference for the next year, that can be huge for us.”

RailRiders reliever George Kontos won two World Series championships with the San Francisco Giants and has pitched in 350 big league games since 2011. When he returned to Triple-A, he noticed the difference immediately.

“The ball off the bat doesn’t have that quite same jump that a major league ball would have,” Kontos said.

Kontos added that MLB baseballs don’t only benefit hitters, however. He thinks pitchers can do more with those baseballs; get more movement and more bite. As long as pitchers hit their spots, they have an advantage, too.

“I think, if anything, it gives them not another transition going to the major league level, especially for guys (promoted) for the first time,” RailRiders pitching coach Tommy Phelps said. “They’ll be able to work with it, practice with it, play the games with it.”

Phelps said some pitchers will go up to the big leagues and the spin rate and break on their pitches will be different. Not having to adjust to different baseballs will allow pitchers to be more comfortable and teams will be able to see truer results.

“We’ve talked about it for years, about how we need to have the major league balls, especially at this level, maybe even at the Double-A level would be good,” Phelps said. “Because there is a difference in the ball. There’s a difference in feel and actually in the analytic side, there’s a difference in the ball, too. It’ll be advantageous for them and we’ll have a better understanding of what their stuff is going to do with a major league ball.”

Contact the writer: cfoley@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9125; @RailRidersTT on Twitter

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