Baseballs by the numbers
30,000: Annual budget for baseballs
6,480: Number of balls purchased each season
84: Average number of balls used each game
9.3: The number of balls used each inning
It’s the ultimate fan souvenir at any professional baseball game.
Catching a foul ball or home run ball can be cause for excitement and one’s 15 seconds of fame in the ballpark.
“To catch a foul ball gives a fan a chance to be a part of the game they love so much,” said longtime Skeeters fan David Simmons. “For that brief moment, the fan has all eyes on them, they are the guy trying to make a play on the ball, everyone watching and waiting to see what happens, just like we (the fans) do during the rest of the game happening on the field. “
“It’s always fun to catch a foul ball,” said super fan Louis Davis. “I’ve caught them with a glove and without. Depending on the quality of the ball, I will get autographs if it’s a good ball.”
James Larken Smith and his wife Lisa are big Skeeters fans. Having their mobility limited to wheelchairs, getting a foul ball is not an easy thing to do.
“For me, getting a ball signed is less about a monetary thing, and more about what that moment meant for me,” Smith said. “My most valuable ball to me was a ball I caught off a rebound a few years ago. Being I have use of just one arm, I always said if I caught a ball I would give it to a kid. So after I caught the ball in my wheelchair, I gave it to two kids below me.
“Afterwards, the dad came up to me and said I had made their weekend. They had made a baseball vacation, and that game was the last of their journey. We exchanged info, and before the game was over, they came back over to me, and asked me to sign their ball. I felt so blessed. That made a family’s vacation special. I have a picture framed of me with those kids. It’s one of my treasured possessions,” Smith said.
“On a side note, my wife and I have had several people just come up and give foul balls to us at the ball park. We later take them to the Sunday team signings. I keep them in collectable holders to remember our teams by each year, too. That’s why we love our team and fans,” Smith said.
For the Sugar Land Skeeters, baseballs are more than an essential part of the game; they’re an important part of the fan experience.
According to Sponsorship Services Manager Chris Parsons, who is in charge of purchasing baseballs and bats for the Skeeters, baseballs make up a good-sized chunck of the team’s budget.
“We spend $30,000 a year on baseballs,” he said.
He said the Skeeters go through an average of seven dozen (84) baseballs per game. They buy 540 dozen (6,480) balls a season. That averages to just over nine balls per inning.
So what happens to all of those balls? Fans get the lion’s share. According to Assistant General Manager Kyle Dawson, foul balls, home run balls, and balls tossed into the stands by players all make for free souvenirs for fans, usually children. On a typical game night, about eight balls will land on the roof of Constellation Field and another dozen make it to the parking lot. Yes, cars occasionally get hit, including Dawson’s one time.
After a ball is hit, either in batting practice or during a game, a judgment call must be made whether or not it can be used again. A scuffed ball can no longer be used. Dawson said the balls that don’t go home with fans wind up being used for batting practice, sold in the team store, or donated to charity auctions and events.
Former Skeeters pitcher Robbie Weinhardt, who is now a sales manager for the team, said most pitchers make a call on the condition of a ball. Most like a ball with smooth leather and others don’t mind a little stress on it. All of the balls used in the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball are made by Rawlings, the same company that makes them for Major League Baseball. Weinhardt said professional balls have seams that are more deeply imbedded into the ball, to where high school and college balls have raised seams.
Another less common souvenir for fans are bats.
It’s rare that one goes into the stands, and unless it’s broken, most players need them back. Most of the time they’re the personal property of the player.
“Our budget for supplying the players bats is around $10,000,” Parsons said. “Some players will come with their own bats they purchased or got from a friend in affiliated ball. We will supply the players without bats a couple to use throughout the year.”
He said they usually buy 150-200 bats throughout the season from Dove Tail Bats in Maine at and average cost of $45-$50 per bat. Broken bats are often given to fans by the players or given to the team to use for charitable purposes.