How it’s made: Softballs
Curiosity may have driven us to discover how softballs are made – like cracking an old ball along its busted seam. The process of manufacturing the softball is important to enjoy the game. Since baseball and softball have come to be an enjoyable sport we all love, care has to be taken to ensure that the balls meet the highest possible specifications. Here’s an insight into how softballs are made.
The softball is divided into two parts; the core and the cover. The little league softball’s weight can be between 5 and 5.25 ounces with about 9 – 9.25-inch circumference. The 12-inch softball usually weighs between 6.25 – 7 ounces while an 11-inch ball weighs between 5.5 -6 ounces.
The first process in making the softball is forming the pill. Slightly smaller than the golf ball, the pill has a small cork center with two outer layers of rubber molded over it. Combining the cork and the double layer of rubber comprise the “double cushioned Cork” core. This core is made from Polyurethane (PU) or cork material.
The core of the softball is crucial to its performance, durability, and strength, following continuous impact during a game or practice.
Most manufacturers use synthetic leather for the softball covering. The leather is first divided into figure-eight like shapes with little holes punctured for stitching. The two ears of leather are then fixed to the mid-section of the ball with glue and then the sewing process begins.
A worker along the assembly line called “stitcher” employs a fixture in holding the ball, and afterwards uses a threads and two needles to cross-stitch the red thread through the holes. As the stitchers stitch, they put wax on the thread to act like a grease which makes the cotton thread pass through the ball’s holes easily.
Usually, a 12-inch softball uses about 12 feet of thread to make 88 stitches on a finished ball, while an 11-inch ball uses 11 feet of thread to make 80 stitches.
When the stitching process is complete, the balls are moved to the stamping point where the graphics are branded onto the three sides of the ball, after which it is dyed its unique optic yellow. To ensure the ink stays permanently on the softball, the balls are passed through the oven.
The quality control lab in the factory tests the balls to ensure they conform to specifications in terms of size, compression (hardness), weight, and COR, which also means ball rebound.
After testing, the balls are packaged and shipped to the warehouse where they will be dispatched to customers.