This Baseball Plays In All Weather Conditions
Rain is an unavoidable reality for spring sports in the Pacific Northwest. It’s wet here. Even when it’s dry. The ground, the grass, the dirt — everything — absorbs a winter’s worth of water, and all that dampness just…lingers. Rusty Trudeau, who now manages national baseball and softball accounts at Baden Sports, remembers the toll bad weather took on his players, pitching rotations and equipment; during his many years as a high school baseball coach in Washington, it was an annual frustration.
Two or three wet rounds of batting practice or infield/outfield, and his new baseballs were ruined.
“I knew we were going to ruin them, and we would,” Trudeau said. “We’d ruin baseballs in about a week. Every year, I’d have a couple of buckets of old, trashed, seams-falling-apart, bushy, oblong balls that I’d use in early March. I never had a solution when I was coaching.”
Shortly after starting at Baden in 1999, Trudeau said he began thinking seriously about the problem. He chatted about it with a few people inside the company, including former product developer Dominnik Liang. Turns out, there wasn’t such a thing as a “waterproof” baseball. But maybe, Trudeau thought, Baden could make a ball that at least didn’t absorb water and become heavy.
After much research and experimentation, Trudeau and team came up with an answer. They called it the “All Weather” baseball. It had a leather cover, so it looked and felt like a regulation game ball. But inside, instead of wool windings, it featured a waterproof core made of rubber, cork and proprietary bonding agents. The ball was made for practice and designed specifically to address the wet-weather problem that so aggravated Trudeau as a coach.
Its key selling point was that it wouldn’t absorb water; even if it got wet, it would return to its original weight within about 24 hours.
The ball was an immediate hit with high school and college coaches when it launched in 2004 — a few Major League clubs even purchased the ball for use during spring training in Florida. There was only one problem: the seam color.
“We got calls from coaches after it first came out,” Trudeau recalled. “They said, this ball is great and it can sit in a mud puddle all day long, floating. Or, we forgot them outside last night and it poured down rain — we picked them up, let them dry and they’re good to go again, etc. But after the font wears off, we can’t tell the difference between our game balls and your All Weather balls.”
That problem was easily solved by changing the seams from red to blue.
“The blue seam is obvious now,” Trudeau said. “It identifies a true practice ball for a wet day. We have college programs now that will look outside, check the weather, and tell their equipment guy — hey, nothing but blue-seam, All Weather balls today. They know the traditional wound ball is toast after one day in wet conditions.”
Since coming out with the product more than a decade ago, Trudeau said Baden has faced numerous copycats. But the original All Weather ball remains the industry standard, from a Northwest company that knows a little something about playing in the rain.
“It has been adopted as the best practice ball on the market,” Trudeau said. “We have guys using it all over, in places you wouldn’t think — not just the Northwest or the Northeast, but everywhere.”by