MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALLS: An Irony for Costa Rica?

Believe it or not, baseball is not a popular sport in Costa Rica.

Did you know that during a regular Major League Baseball (MLB) game an average of one hundred baseballs are used?  It means that once taken out of play, a standard professional baseball will not be reused again.

Why is this? Well, it happens that some of those baseballs become dented or scuffed.  Whereas others are simply hit out of the diamond, and become foul balls.  Some are hit as home runs, and those are immediately kept and cherished by the eager fans.  The remaining balls are usually recycled to be used for that team’s batting practice, or just sent to their minor leagues.

Indeed, the average lifespan of a baseball in the MLB is barely two plays during a game, and the demand for these official baseballs is steadily increasing. That is why the MLB organization always needs to count on a reliable provider. Did you know that most professional baseballs are hand-made at the Rawlings Factory which was established in Costa Rica in 1887?  According to a report by the Reuters News Agency, this factory was the exclusive baseball provider for MLB until 2013.

Located in Turrialba, Costa Rica, the Rawlings Factory produces about 2.4 million baseballs per year. Out of this number, more than 1.8 million units are sent to the United States. This statistics allows us to understand why this is the main MLB provider, not to say the best one.

With about three hundred qualified sewers, the factory produces a first-quality made-by-hand product.  Each of the one hundred and eight stitches per ball must be perfect, making these baseballs better than any other machine-made ball.  Experienced sewers can make three or baseballs per hour, and less-experienced workers between one and two. To avoid injuries, they have to wear medical tape on their fingers in order to protect themselves from blisters or cuts as they pull each stitch tight.

But believe it or not, baseball is not a popular sport in Costa Rica. Apart from soccer, which is by far the number one sport for ticos, there are other sports such as bullfighting, surfing, biking, white-water rafting, among others.  This practically pushes baseball towards one of the last positions in the ranking list. In other words, baseball is almost an unknown sport for most Costa Ricans. Compared to other Central American countries, such as Panamá and Nicaragua, where there seems to be more balance between baseball and soccer as team sports.

So it is somehow paradoxical that, although having the Rawlings factory as the most important professional baseball provider for the MLB, the sport itself is not deeply rooted in most Costa Rican’s sports preferences.  At last, this question emerges: is it not an irony for Costa Rica?

VIAJannette MacKinnon
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