Major League Baseball will experiment with a new baseball prototype at the Triple-A level during the final week-plus of the 2021 regular season, according to a report by Kyle Glaser of Baseball America. The new, "pre-tacked" ball will be used by a "handful" of Triple-A teams in one of their remaining games between now and the season's conclusion.
MLB's attempt at introducing a new baseball is a direct response to the league's decision back in June to outlaw grip-enhancing substances on the grounds that they slanted performance toward pitchers by improving their pitches' spin rates.
"Pre-tacked" means a substance that improves the pitchers' grip has already been applied by the time they touch it in-game -- in turn, pitchers should no longer feel the need (or have the excuse) to apply their own in order to improve their control and allow for a safer game.
Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball league uses pre-tacked balls. Several MLB and minor-league pitchers were exposed to them earlier this summer when they partook in the Tokyo Olympics. Perhaps predictably, those pitchers raved about the ball. "It's got this tack that they put on it before," Minnesota Twins right-hander Joe Ryan told Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times. "So when you open that thing up, it's ready to rock and roll."
Ryan added: "It is -- I can't say this enough -- the best baseball I've ever touched."
It's unclear if MLB will look to implement the new baseball at the big-league level as soon as next spring. It stands to reason that is the plan at some point down the road, however, as the league attempts to find the sweet spot between pitcher comfort and a competitive balance within the hitter-pitcher matchup.