In baseball, how is pine tar used? What does it do?

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In baseball, how is pine tar used? What does it do?
July 22, 2023

Understanding Pine Tar: A Brief Introduction

Before we delve into the specifics of how pine tar is used in baseball, it's essential to understand what it is. Pine tar is a sticky substance that's produced by distilling pine wood. It's been around for centuries and has a variety of uses, including in medicine and maritime applications. However, in the context of baseball, it's used to enhance grip on the bat. But the usage of pine tar in baseball is not without its controversies and there are rules governing how and when it can be used.

The Role of Pine Tar in Baseball

So, how exactly is pine tar used in baseball? Well, it's primarily used by batters to improve their grip on the bat. The better the grip, the more control a player has over his swing, which can significantly impact his performance at the plate. Pine tar adds a tacky surface to the bat handle, reducing the chances of it slipping out of the batter's hands during a powerful swing. This is particularly useful in wet conditions or in situations where the player is sweating heavily.

The Application Process of Pine Tar

Now, let's talk about how pine tar is applied to a baseball bat. Generally, the substance comes in a tube and is rubbed onto the bat's handle. Some players prefer to apply it directly, while others use a cloth. There's also a popular method where players rub the pine tar onto an old baseball, which is then used to apply it to the bat. Regardless of the method used, the aim is to get a thin, even layer of pine tar on the bat's handle. Too much can make the bat overly sticky and difficult to handle.

The Rules and Controversies Surrounding Pine Tar

While pine tar is a common sight in baseball, its use is regulated by the game's rules. According to Major League Baseball regulations, pine tar shouldn't extend more than 18 inches up the bat from the handle. This is to prevent the substance from being transferred onto the ball, potentially affecting its flight and giving the batter an unfair advantage. Over the years, there have been several controversies involving the use of pine tar, the most famous of which is probably the "Pine Tar Incident" involving George Brett in 1983.

Pine Tar and Pitchers: A Different Story

The use of pine tar by pitchers is another topic altogether. Because it can alter the flight of the ball, Major League Baseball rules prohibit pitchers from using it. However, there have been instances where pitchers have been accused of using pine tar to get more control over their pitches. This is considered cheating and can result in severe penalties, including ejections and suspensions.

Alternatives to Pine Tar

While pine tar is the most popular choice for improving grip in baseball, it isn't the only option. Alternatives like batting gloves, rosin bags, and grip-enhancing sprays are also used. Each of these has its pros and cons, and the choice often comes down to personal preference. However, as with pine tar, there are rules governing the use of these substances, and players must be careful not to run afoul of them.

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