Take Me Out to the "Farm" Game

Take Me Out to the "Farm" Game
Minor League Salt Lake Bees Player

 

As we enter the “dog days of summer”, farmers and ranchers throughout Utah are

in full swing to bring you the best food Utah has to offer. But did you know that

agriculture contributes to many other parts of our lives – many we don’t even

think about? With little – and not so little – kids hitting the baseball and softball

diamonds throughout the state, have you thought about the critical role

agriculture plays in baseball?

 

While no Major League Baseball (MLB) team calls Utah home, residents are crazy

for ‘America’s Pastime’, as evidenced by attendance to minor league teams in Salt

Lake (the Salt Lake City Bees), Ogden, Orem and St. George, and participation in amateur

leagues throughout the state. Let’s take a moment to see all the ways farmers and

ranchers contribute to the ‘old ballgame.

 

Baseballs

Legend has it the Ancient Romans played a game similar to what we call baseball

today, with balls made from strips of animal hide wrapped around wild grasses.

Today, baseballs are made from four strands of high quality wool – 150 total

yards! The core is then surrounded by rubber or cork from cork oak trees in Spain

or Portugal. The ball is then covered by two pieces of cowhide, stitched together

with exactly 216 stitches. Lower quality baseballs have a core made of cotton

yarn. One cow can provide approximately 144 baseballs!

 

Glove or Mitt

The shape of gloves can vary on position on the field and the size of the player’s

hand. Gloves are also made from cowhide. One cow can provide enough materials

for approximately 12 gloves.

 

Bats

Bats are made from solid pieces of wood and must be no more than 2.6 inches in

diameter at its thickest point, and no more than 42 inches long. Most bats have

historically been made from northern ash trees, though some have increasingly

been made from maple.

 

Yellow pine trees in the southern U.S. have also been used to create pine tar. Pine

resin is also dried and powered for use in resin bags for players.

 

Uniforms

According to Oklahoma Ag in the Classroom, the first official baseball uniform

was adopted in 1849 by the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club of New York City. It

consisted simply of a flannel shirt, blue wool pants, and a straw hat. Hats were

later fashioned out of Merino wool, which is a high-quality wool. Today, baseball

uniforms are cotton-based, with most U.S. cotton grown in the southern states.

Cotton is an excellent natural fiber that keeps players cool.

 

Soil

Various soil and mineral types from around the country are used in many

elements of baseball, including limestone chalk used for baselines, clay used to

build up pitching mounds, and a special mud used to rough up baseballs before

they are used. Soil from central Utah has also been rumored to find its way into

MLB stadiums.

 

Turf Grass

While artificial turf is used in some stadiums, nothing quite has the feel of

traditional baseball than playing on turf grass. Most fields include a mixture of

Kentucky Blue grass, rye, fescue, and other grasses.

 

In addition to the traditional ways you may see agriculture at the ballpark –

eating things like hotdogs & hamburgers, nachos, popcorn, peanuts, sunflower

seeds, beverages, etc. – agriculture processing has been used to create other

items used by players, including vitamins and pharmaceuticals, bandages, and

the printing of programs.

 

While not on the mind when you first see a batter hit a screaming drive down the

third base line, agriculture is clearly front-and-center in the game of baseball and

many other sports. Just one more reason we have to thank a farmer or rancher

the next time you see them. Play ball!

 

Purchase discounted tickets to the Salt Lake Bees HERE.

Sources for the story include ‘Baseball Needs Agriculture’ by Minnesota Agriculture in the Classroom,
‘Agriculture in Sports’ by Oklahoma Agriculture in the Classroom, and The Baseball Charm