The pitcher is arguably the most important position in baseball, but it’s also the most demanding as it requires a great deal of strength, precision, and focus. Luckily, pitchers get a little bit of help: rosin bags. What is a rosin bag in baseball?
Rosin bags are small canvas bags filled with rosin powder that pitchers use to better grip the baseball and to keep their hands dry. Rosin bags are located in the field of play, usually lying on the backside of the pitcher’s mound.
This article will explain everything you need to know about rosing bags, how they are used, and how they help pitchers improve their performance on the field.
How Does Rosin Powder Help?
Rosin bags may seem like some small thing that pitchers use, but pitchers gain a lot of benefit from using a rosin bag. What does a rosin bag do in baseball?
A rosin bag is designed to help the pitcher by drying off sweat and allowing a better grip on the baseball. When used properly, rosin bags reduce the chance of the baseball slipping from the pitcher’s hand and can help increase the spin rate of the pitch.
Without that extra grip on the pitcher’s hands, it would be easier for the batter to get a hit since the pitcher will have a limited feel for their pitch. Rosin powder allows the pitcher to remain in complete control during their pitch.
There are a lot of different rosin bags out there. If you’re looking for a quality rosin bag, check out the price of this Marucci rosin bag on Amazon. It’s a fairly big rosin bag, but the quality is good and it will last the entire season, if not longer. If you’re looking for a cheaper version, this smaller rosin bag from Rawlings will do the trick (links to Amazon).
Rosin Bags are Common in Professional Baseball But Uncommon in Non-Professional Leagues
Not only are rosin bags common in the MLB, but they’re a standard piece of equipment found in both the Major League and Minor League games. In the U.S., rosin is the only substance pitchers are allowed to use.
Some pitchers constantly use rosin throughout a game, some use it sporadically, while others use it before every single pitch. Three-time MLB All-Star Pat Hentgen used rosin with all his pitches, and so did many other great pitchers.
Despite numerous bans and regulations throughout baseball history, professional pitchers have always found ways to use rosin, no matter if it’s legal or not at the time. Unless something better takes its place, it’ll indeed remain prevalent for years to come.
With that said, it isn’t always necessary to use rosin. For example, if the weather is clear and humid, you should be able to have a decent enough grip on the ball with your bare hands.
On the other hand, non-professional baseball leagues are a different story when it comes to using rosin. In my experience, there is almost never a rosin bag that is used in non-professional baseball leagues. It happens, but it’s not very common.
While there aren’t any rules around using rosin, rosin is just not a common tactic used by pitchers or batters in non-professional baseball leagues. This includes baseball leagues from tee-ball, all the way through high school. Even adult baseball leagues don’t use rosin when they play.
Rosin bag usage starts to gradually appear as you get into college baseball and then it becomes a lot more prevalent once you get into Minor League and Major League baseball games.
History of Rosin Use in Baseball
The first reported instance of rosin being used during a baseball game was in 1887. Six years later, in 1893, it was mentioned in a Sporting News article, which stated that a team used the substance around “half-dozen times” during a game.
Prior to the use of rosin bags, it was common for pitchers to reach down and cover their hand with dirt, presumably to get a better grip on the ball. So in the early 1900s, it became a common tactic for home teams to mix soap and water with the dirt around the pitcher’s mound to give opposing pitchers slimy hands when they reached down for dirt.
There were also dry spots reserved for the home pitchers, but only the home pitchers knew where to find those spots.
With the arrival of rosin, this tactic became ineffective as the then-new substance would counteract the effects of the soap, which further popularized its use until the rosin bag became a standard piece of equipment for every pitcher.
In 1919, baseball decided to take a harsher stance on any foreign substances, including rosin and prohibited its use. Enforcing this new rule was a different story, as pitchers still found ways to sneak it onto the field, mainly by keeping it in their pocket or taking it from the bat rack (where rosin was still allowed.)
The ban on rosin didn’t last long either, as it was lifted from the NL in 1925 and from the AL in 1931.
Rules for Rosin Bags in Baseball
In baseball, there is always a lot of talk around what substances are legal and what substances are illegal. Are rosin bags legal?
In 1919, rosin bags were banned from baseball, but the ban was lifted in 1925 in the National League and 1931 in the American League. Rosin bags are now legal to use in baseball and they are the only foreign substance pitchers are allowed to use.
Until 2020, there was a single rosin bag on the baseball field either at the back of the pitcher’s mound or the deck circle that all the pitchers used. Due to the pandemic, the rules were recently changed so that each pitcher has their own bag and they bring it with them each time they enter or leave the field.
The pitchers can only use the rosin when time is called, and they step off of the rubber. Here are some other rules regarding the rosin bag in baseball:
- The play continues if the ball hits the rosin bag during open play.
- If it’s raining or the field is wet, the umpire may instruct the pitcher to keep the rosin bag in their hip pocket.
- No player is allowed to apply rosin directly to the ball.
Why Is Rosin Legal And Other Substances Aren’t?
Rosin is very effective for drying the hands and keeping the pitchers on a level playing field with other players, so it makes sense why regulators don’t mind it being part of the game.
Rosin isn’t as sticky as some other substances that make it very easy to grip the ball. These sticky substances give the pitchers an unfair advantage by drastically increasing the spin rate of the pitch.
The more spin a pitch has, the harder it is for a batter to make contact.
Rosin powder by itself isn’t particularly sticky, although it can be when mixed with sweat, which is why you may see players mix it with their sweat before a pitch.
Pitchers Mix Rosin With Other Substances to Improve Grip
Throughout history, pitchers have used too many different sticky substances to count, so rosin is certainly far from the only substance, even though it’s the most popular. Usually, pitchers mix the rosin with another substance, making it even stickier and more effective.
A famous combination is sunscreen mixed with rosin powder. But is sunscreen and rosin illegal?
While sunscreen and rosin are both legal to use in baseball, they become illegal once a pitcher mixes the two substances together. When combined, a pitcher can be suspended for using a foreign substance.
Pitchers have argued that these sticky substances not only help improve performance but are also important for safety reasons, as they help them avoid hitting a batter. However, there’s little evidence to support this, as the number of hit players hasn’t increased since other sticky substances were banned.
The main reason pitchers love using other sticky substances in addition to rosin is because it increases the spin of the pitch, making it harder for the batter to hit. Many high-profile baseball players have been involved in scandals for using banned substances.
Batters Also Use Rosin
Pitchers aren’t the only ones who benefit from rosin. Hitters also use this substance to improve their grip on their bat and prevent it from slipping out of their hands during hard hits. The powder also protects the hands of the hitters as they don’t have to grip the bat as hard, which results in more “pop” during hits.
Although the rosin may be labeled separately for pitchers and hitters, it’s still the same substance inside and has the same effects. However, most batters, especially in professional leagues, prefer to use pine tar instead of rosin, which is a similar substance from the same source; pine trees.
2021 MLB Sticky Substance Rule
In early 2021, the MLB introduced an enhanced set of rules prohibiting players from using any foreign substance to handle the baseball, with harsh punishments including ejection and suspension. These rules came after a surge in foreign substances used by pitchers, significantly improving their grip and spin and altering outcomes of matches.
All pitchers are now subject to umpire checks throughout the game.
However, since rosin isn’t categorized as a pure sticky substance, rosin bags will remain a part of the game. As baseball cracks down on banned, sticky substances, rosin bags will become a more important part of the game.
How To Use Rosin Bag in Baseball
If you’re sweaty, it’s raining, or you just want to get a better grip on the ball, you could use a rosin bag. How do you apply rosin in baseball?
To apply rosin in baseball, start by holding the rosin bag in your throwing hand. Gently toss the rosin bag up and let the bag fall on your fingers. Repeat this gentle toss a few times until you feel like you have enough rosin powder on your hands. Then rub the powder with your fingers and thumb.
The MLB Network has an insightful video featuring MLB legend Pedro Martinez on how to properly use a rosin bag during games. He shows viewers how they don’t need anything to make rosin sticky – just a bit of sweat and continuous rubbing should do the trick. He also shares his thoughts on new ways of getting a better grip.
How Is Rosin Powder Produced?
Throughout baseball history, pitchers have been looking for ways to get a better grip on the ball to give them an advantage over the hitter. Perhaps the oldest, and most legal method to help them do so is the use of rosin.
Rosin is a white powder produced by heating the liquid resin found in longleaf pine trees in the Eastern Gulf States, the South Atlantic, or the far East. The liquid is heated in stills and purified by passing through straining wadding.
The powdered form of the resulting substance is used in baseball, but there are many other uses for it across different disciplines within or outside sports.
Rosin bags first appeared in the early days of baseball in 1887 and have been a staple on the field ever since, except for an 18 year period between 1919 and 1937 when they were banned.
Rosin Can Be an Illegal Substance When Combined with Other Substances
Despite the best efforts of governing bodies and umpires to regulate the use of illegal substances in baseball, the problem still remains relevant. There have been many scandals regarding foreign substances in baseball.
One of the illegal substances used is Spider-Tack, which is extremely sticky and was developed for use in strongman competitions for gripping Atlas Stones. Some other popular ones are sunscreen and Cramer firm grip.
These substances consistently find their way onto the baseball field through players’ caps, pockets, and gloves.
Various sections of the MLB rulebook clearly state that it’s illegal to apply any foreign substance to the ball or hands, but merely having the rules on paper doesn’t seem to be enough.
Despite being banned, sunscreen is used in nearly every game combined with rosin, and this is coming straight from a former manager. “You want to police some sunscreen and rosin? Go ahead. Get every single person in this league,” said Mike Shildt, former manager of the St. Louis Cardinals.
However, according to Shildt and others, the real problem is the other sticky substances that still somehow find their way onto the field.
The MLB is allegedly very serious about this issue, offenders haven’t received significant fines yet, and until that happens, it’s hard to expect that anything will change.
Rosin bags are a standard piece of equipment used in professional baseball, but it is often missing in non-professional baseball leagues.
Rosin bags contain rosin powder, which helps pitchers keep their hands dry and gives them a better grip on the ball. Rosin has been around baseball for nearly 150 years and remains one of the few substances that players can use.
Rosin powder is legal because it isn’t as sticky as other substances, but many players have gotten in trouble for illegally mixing it with another substance like sunscreen.