Pine Tar in Baseball

Pine Tar in Baseball: What Is It? Why Use It? And Is It Legal?

As a baseball fan, you’re bound to have heard the mention of pine tar at some point, you may even have used it yourself.

But what is it and what advantages does it provide in baseball?

In a nutshell, pine tar is a dark-colored, thick, and sticky liquid that is produced from burning pine roots. Historically, it’s had a heap of uses from preserving wood, sealing ships, and building roofs on buildings. It’s also a key ingredient in cosmetics and soaps and creams used for treating people with skin conditions.

Pine Tar in Baseball

Pine tar is also a great friend to a batter in baseball as a small amount applied to a bat’s handle or a hitter’s gloves can massively improve a player’s grip. 

Thanks to its thick and sticky nature, pine tar is a great aid to a hitter as it allows them to have a more comfortable grasp of their bat making their swing more relaxed. 

A more relaxed grip when swinging is an advantage to a hitter as it can improve the quality of the bat’s connection with the ball and give more pop, on contact.

The MLB has certain rules about the application of pine tar, however.

These regulations state who can use pine tar and the amount of pine tar that can be applied, yet despite the rules there is still controversy and debate on the subject. 

A Trip Down Memory Lane…

Perhaps the most famous case of controversy came in the ‘Pine Tar Incident’ in July 1983. 

This was a game between the Kansas City Royals and the New York Yankees at the Yankee Stadium. Going into the top half of the ninth inning, the Royals were trailing 4-3 when George Brett stepped up to the plate.

After getting into stance, the ball was pitched and Brett managed to hit a stunning two-run homer to put his team ahead. 

New York Yankees Baseball Ball

On any normal day in any given ball game, Brett’s home run gives the Royals the lead but following the hit, then Yankees manager Billy Martin demanded that the umpires inspect the bat Brett was using. 

The umpires agreed and, after deeming the bat to be in breach of the rules because of the amount of pine tar found on the bat handle, retracted the runs giving the win to the Yankees. 

But why? Let’s take a look at the exact rules surrounding pine tar.

Pine Tar Rules in Baseball

Is it legal?

Well yes and no. Brett’s bending the rules with excessive use of pine tar wasn’t the first time anyone had used pine tar to ‘cheat’, but it was the first time anyone had been called out on it and been caught.

The use of pine tar is allowed under certain circumstances and for certain players in limited amounts. However, its use in other circumstances is totally illegal.

Is pine tar legal for batters?

According to the official MLB rules, batters can use pine tar on the handle of their bat. The official rules state that: 

the bat handle, for not more than 18 inches from its end, may be covered or treated with any material or substance to improve the grip. Any such material or substance that extends past the 18-inch limitation shall be removed from the game”.
Rule 3.02 (c)

So there you have it, pine tar, or anything else for that matter, can be used by batters to enhance their grip, and as a result improve the quality of thier hitting – as long as it isn’t in an excessive amount. 

What about pine tar for pitchers?

In every single sport, you’re likely to find athletes using certain methods to gain an edge on their opponent. It’s nothing new and it’s certainly not going to change. But what happens when your means of achieving an upper hand is in direct conflict with the laws of the game?

For pitchers, the use of pine tar falls under the umbrella of ball-tampering. Essentially, the ball can’t have anything attached to it, or removed from it that might affect its flight as this will give the pitcher an unfair advantage. Let’s see what the MLB rules say:

No player shall intentionally discolor or damage the ball by rubbing it with soil, rosin, paraffin, licorice, sand-paper, emery-paper or other foreign substances (such as pine tar)”
Rule 3.01

So it’s pretty clear to see why the use of pine tar should be illegal for pitchers.

Why Are Baseball Players’ Helmets So Dirty?

Every wondered what that stuff is on a baseball players’ helmet? You guessed it, it’s pine tar! 

But what’s it doing there? Well, we can definitely agree that it’s not a fashion statement.

Players will often rub pine tar on their helmets so that they can have access to an extra supply at the plate. If they feel they need to bump up the pine tar on their bat handle during play, they can’t go back to the dugout to get their rag so they simply rub their hands or gloves on their helmet and get a crafty pine tar top-up.

Recommend Reading…

Seing as you’re here, you might find this article useful around baseball hitting nets

We’ve dug into the; durability, portability, setup time, budget and taken everyones budget into concideration to give you well thought out professional advice. 

Using a hitting net, that can easily be set up and stored at home can help you improve your hitting without the need for taking a trip down to your local park. It’ll also give a chance to improve hitting without the need for pine tar 😛

Best Pine Tar Products

If you’re reading this and thinking about using pine tar to improve your game, you should definitely check out these products and feel the benefits of an improved grip.

Just be sure to use them on your bat handle and not to gain an unfair advantage!

Tiger Stick

The Tiger Stick is awesome for enhancing your grip on your bat handle.

It comes in at a really fair price and is made with a non-stain formula.

Meaning you won’t have to worry about it damaging your gloves or clothes. 

Easton Elite Bat Pine Tar Stick

This pine tar stick is a great solution that lasts a long time.

It’s slightly cheaper than the Tiger Stick and still does a great job.

It’s easy to apply and doesn’t make a mess of your kit.

Coming in with a solid customer review rating, it’s well worth taking a look at. 

Pelican Bat Wax Stick

This all-natural bat wax stick comes in two colors to suit the style of your bat. 

It also does a really great job  on your bat handle in all weather conditions.

It’s very easy to apply thanks to the rip-away paper wrapper.

It’s extremely sticky and smells great too.

Pine Tar in Baseball: Closing thoughts…

Whilst the rules on using pine tar are straightforward and clear, there’s still some grey area surrounding it and we’ve seen it used by pitchers a few times. 

Neutral spectators and players don’t seem to have too much of a problem with it but the problems arise when they get caught.

At the end of the day, it’s a traditional and useful aid to a batter’s game so it should be allowed. 

If you feel like you could benefit from using pine tar, definitely check out the products mentioned above and feel the difference. You’ll soon be batting like a pro.

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