First baseman and baseball

From http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/455/why-is-a-ball-always-thrown-to-the-1st-baseman-as-he-leaves-the-field-after-an-inning

This seems like a poorly thought out tradition. If he needs the ball when he takes the field, why is he given the ball when he leaves the field? Wouldn’t it make more sense to have some designated stooge to hand him the ball as he goes onto the field, rather than expecting him to keep up with the ball while sitting in the dugout, going to bat, running the bases, etc?

When he’s going to the dugout, he’s facing in the right direction?

When fielders come in to the dugout, they typical enter in some order vaguely related to the distance of their positions from the gate. They are also easy to find on the field making delivery a no brainer, even a coach could do it. When they leave the dugout, players typically go all at once. This would mean that a bat boy assigned the job would have to keep track of the first baseman during the half inning whether the guy was sitting on the bench or sitting on the john in order to deliver the ball. Further complications would occur in if the player were batting or on base. But if the ball is in his glove from the start, he has it when he needs it. If he is on base, a fellow player will usually pick up the glove, ball already inside, and bring it to him.

Good point about putting it in his glove, which he has to keep up with. :smack:

(Haven’t played baseball, or even softball, in like forever.)

While the bit about the first baseman having a ball to throw around for warm-ups is a seemingly viable reason, it is not the actual reason behind the act.

The real reason is to remove the used ball from the field, so the other team’s pitcher must get a new ball from the umpire. As any baseball player will tell you, a ball with scuffs, cuts, or other defects in its surface acts differently when thrown. If a pitcher is knowledgable enough, he can make a pitch break a little more, or drop faster, etc… That’s why some pitchers do things like hide a piece of sandpaper, or a bit of vaseline on their persons to “doctor” the ball in order to get an unfair advantage. Altering the ball is illegal.

So, when your team is retiring from the field to come to bat, you want the opposing pitcher to have to use a new, unblemished ball, hence you remove the old ball from the field. Giving it to the first baseman for a toss-around is just a time saving bonus and a habit ingrained in players to make sure the used ball has been removed.

It’s also why an umpire will occasionally ask to see a baseball, then remove it from the game. The ball has been damaged in some way and no longer has a smooth exterior.

But if the point is to remove the ball that was in play, then why is it someone from the dugout throwing the ball to the first baseman, and not the pitcher? How did the guy in the dugout get the ball that was in play?

Methinks you are adding 1 and 1 and getting 3.

Could have something to do with making sure the batter is out. Otherwise, at least in the league I keep score in, he can steal first.

The ball in question is coming to the first baseman from the dugout. It can have no impact on the ball in play.

As an old 1st baseman, I can tell you that it prevents having to root around for a ball between innings - especially if one is has to bat. Most players will put their glove and hat in the same place so that they can find it. As somebody noted, another time saver is having a teammate bring your glove to you when you are stranded on base at the end of an inning. That is also why you will sometimes see a catcher wear his shin guards in the on deck circle if there are two outs - if the batter makes the third out he only has to don chest protector and mask.

The ball goes to the first baeman so he already has a ball in his glove. This minimizes the delay in throwing ground balls to his infieders before the start of play in each half of the inning.

Same procedure with the outfielders. Usually the centerfielder carries a ball so the three outfielders can throw the ball to each other before play begins.

In the ‘olden’ days the players used to leave their gloves near their positions. With the shortstop and second basemen, the gloves were deposited just on the edge of the outfield grass; with the first and third basemen, in foul territory.

Somewhere that tradition was eliminated as there were instances of opposing players tripping over the gloves.

If that were true, after a (caught!) third strike with 2 outs, the catcher would keep the ball and not roll it back to the mound for the other team to use (the ump may toss that ball out of play anyway when the next pitcher starts warming up, however).

I’d think the ump would let the pitcher warm up with the old ball, changing it out for the first real pitch. (But I don’t know that.)

I never noticed that someone gives the first baseman a ball after the inning. Wouldn’t a large percentage of innings end with the ball in the first baseman’s glove anyway? In that case, does he keep it?

No, whoever ends the inning with the ball in their glove either rolls it back to the mound, flips it to an umpire, or tosses it in the stands to a fan. I don’t know if this is outlined in the rules or not, but I don’t recall ever seeing a player just keep it (unless it was a landmark event, like a 500th strikeout or a record set for consecutive scoreless innings - but in that case the teams equipment manager usually ends up with it to store it for safe keeping).