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A Case Study in Baseball Storage Innovation

Norlake® Scientific and Innovative Air Technologies' Partnership with Professional Baseball

 

Introduction

In 2022, Major League Baseball (MLB) implemented a regulation that stipulated the storage conditions for baseballs used during games. The new requirement mandated that baseballs be stored at precisely 70° Fahrenheit and 57% relative humidity.

To meet this demand, several Major League ball clubs sought the expertise of Norlake® Scientific and Innovative Air Technologies, two prominent companies in the field of temperature and humidity control solutions. This case study delves into the collaborative efforts of Norlake® Scientific and Innovative Air Technologies and their solution to meet Major League Baseball's unique storage requirements.


Background

Major League Baseball has a long history of strict regulations governing the use of baseballs in professional games. For example, according to their official rules, a baseball must weigh “not less than five nor more than 5 ¼ ounces.”[i] Players are also restricted in their handling of a baseball; they are not allowed to deface or discolor the ball in any way.

In Major League Baseball’s effort to create continuity and consistency for all players across all ballparks, a new regulation was introduced in 2022. This change focused on controlling the environmental conditions in which baseballs were stored before and during regulation games.

These environmental conditions were specified as:

  1. Temperature: 70° Fahrenheit

  2. Relative Humidity: 57%

  3. Baseballs are to be stored in these conditions for at least 14 days before being used in a game.[ii]

  4. Baseballs are to be removed from the conditioned space no more than 15-30 minutes prior to the scheduled start time.

Achieving and maintaining these conditions was crucial to ensure the consistency of baseball performance during games, regardless of the location of the ball field.

Innovative Air Technologies desiccant dehumidifier technologies used in professional baseball stadiums across the United States.
Click the link below to download a Printable version of our Baseball Case Study

The Challenge

Environmental factors can change baseball weight and texture. According to Dr. Alan Nathan, an expert on physics and baseball, “…adjusting the moisture content of the ball… affects the coefficient of restitution… which is the bounciness of the ball.” He explains that drying the ball increases this property, making the ball more bouncy and able to be hit harder, and vice versa.

As a consultant for Major League Baseball, Dr. Nathan also explained that when baseballs are stored in a humidor, the outside climate will not have much of an effect on the ball itself as it takes many hours, if not days, for a baseball to come to equilibrium with its surroundings.

Baseball Case Study (Printable)
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Download PDF • 39.69MB

When asked about this new regulation, former Orioles pitcher, Andy Mitchell states, “As a pitcher, the texture and the weight of the ball is very noticeable.” He further explains that because a pitcher is “manipulating and commanding” the ball, its moisture content and density play a vital role. Mitchell feels that the new humidors will create more consistency regardless of the location in which the game is being played.

Batting, however, is directly affected by field location. According to Dr, Nathan, “… air density is reduced at higher temperatures… higher elevations, and… higher humidities,” therefore a baseball can travel farther in those conditions because there is less air drag. Unfortunately, outside air conditions cannot be controlled and since a single professional game can utilize more than 13 dozen baseballs, consistency is a must to achieve game equity.

The challenge of baseball storage as directed by the new regulations was significant. While it is relatively straightforward to maintain a constant temperature, controlling humidity levels with precision is far more complex. Traditional climate control systems typically used in storage facilities, even those in sports stadiums, often struggle to achieve the fine-tuned control required for baseball storage.


The Solution

Norlake® Scientific and Innovative Air Technologies partnered to provide a cutting-edge solution to meet the unique storage requirements. Together, they designed and implemented a custom-built storage system that incorporated desiccant dehumidifiers. This innovative system achieved precise control of temperature and relative humidity, in accordance with Major League Baseball’s new regulation, ensuring that baseballs were consistently stored at 70°F and 57% relative humidity.


Norlake Scientific and Innovative Air Technologies Humidor in a professional baseball stadium. Baseball humidors utilize desiccant dehumidifiers to maintain regulation temperature & humidity.
Baseball Humidor in a professional baseball stadium.

Once the regulation was official, each ball club was allowed to facilitate the construction of their own baseball storage space (often called a humidor). Due to prepared balls needing to be close to the playing field, it was necessary for these spaces to be built on the ballpark grounds. This made custom facilities and dehumidification systems necessary.


Key components of the solution:

- Desiccant Dehumidifiers: These units effectively remove moisture from the air, ensuring the desired relative humidity level of 57% is maintained.

- Temperature Control Systems: Advanced temperature control systems to maintain a stable temperature of 70°F within the storage facility.

- Monitoring and Control Systems: A state-of-the-art monitoring and control system continuously measures and adjusts environmental conditions to meet MLB's stringent requirements.

- Data Logging: Real-time data logging and reporting provides officials with the assurance that the conditions are consistently met and maintained.


Implementation

The implementation of this innovative storage solution involved custom-built facilities on professional baseball stadium property. Norlake® Scientific and Innovative Air Technologies worked closely with each ball club to ensure the best location of the facility. Desiccant dehumidifiers were strategically placed to distribute dry air evenly, creating uniform humidity levels throughout the storage space.


Results

The collaboration between Norlake® Scientific and Innovative Air Technologies successfully addressed professional ball clubs’ challenge. Allowing baseballs to be consistently stored at 70°F and 57% relative humidity, meeting the new regulations with precision.

Professional Baseball Humidor built by Norlake Scientific, includes Innovative Air Technologies desiccant dehumidifier.
Professional Baseball Humidor built by Norlake Scientific, includes Innovative Air Technologies desiccant dehumidifier.

Benefits included:

  1. Enhanced Ball Performance: Utilizing consistent storage conditions, baseballs performed predictably and reliably during regulation games, contributing to game equity for all teams.

  2. Enhanced Game Quality: Fans and players alike benefited from the increased consistency in ball performance, resulting in a more engaging and competitive game.

  3. Compliance with Regulations: Ball clubs were able to demonstrate their commitment to transparency and adherence to regulations, promoting trust and integrity in the sport.


Conclusion

The collaboration between Norlake® Scientific and Innovative Air Technologies and their cutting-edge solution to store baseballs at precise temperature and humidity levels showcases the importance of innovative engineering in professional sports. By meeting Major League Baseball’s rigorous storage requirements, the partnership contributed to the integrity and quality of the game, benefiting players, fans, and the league as a whole. This case study demonstrates the potential of collaborative problem-solving and technological innovation in meeting even the most challenging dehumidification demands.



[ii] AP “MLB Standardizes how baseballs are prepped to be put in play” https://apnews.com/article/mlb-sports-baseball-new-york-mets-a772576da7a7c65fa676c4dfee5c9696

 

Summer Neal, Marketing Manager for Innovative Air Technologies. IAT is a commercial desiccant dehumidifier vendor in Covington, GA, providing custom dehumidification systems for applications such as food processing, military storage and baseball humidors.

Summer Neal

Marketing Manager

Innovative Air Technologies


Read my entire interview with Dr. Alan Nathan HERE or download the PDF by clicking the link below.


Baseball & Physics with Dr. Alan Nathan (US Letter)
.pdf
Download PDF • 13.93MB





 

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