Energy: The Invisible 10th Player in Baseball

There isn’t anything much more American than baseball. The iconic game has served as a cultural unifier for families, friends and sports-lovers alike on warm summer nights beneath the glow of stadium lights.

As the game has evolved, a new supporter has appeared behind the scenes. While maximizing player equipment and field conditions, baseball has adopted an invisible 10th player — energy.

It’s unusual to make the connection between petroleum and natural gas and baseball, but the game wouldn’t be the same without those energy sources.

The baseball itself was modernized to allow players to knock it out of the park and to guarantee consistency in performance. As the ball has changed, it has become what it is with the help of natural gas-based components.

The ball used in the major leagues is made of a cork center surrounded by synthetic rubber, which is made from petrochemical feedstocks produced by putting crude oil through several processes.

The core of the ball is submerged in a latex adhesive (also made from petroleum) and wrapped in three layers of woolen yarn. After that, the ball is wrapped a fourth time with polyester/cotton yarn, made in part by petroleum, which ensures the surface will be smooth. This is the last layer before the cowhide cover is applied and stitched together by hand.

The players’ uniforms are polyester, a synthetic fiber made from natural gas byproducts. Their gloves are often softened with petroleum jelly. The artistry of wooden bats is developed through stains and finishes, which contain petroleum derivatives. From the gasoline that fuels the mowers that shape the field to the natural gas byproducts that makeup the plastic seats in the stands, oil-based products are found all over the ballpark.

Natural gas plays a critical role to the field our national pastime is played on as well. It manufactures the nitrogen product fertilizer that makes the infield and outfield grass a vibrant green. The machines that manufacture bats and electronics that allow fans to tune in are powered by electricity, which is increasingly generated by reliable, cleaner-burning natural gas.

So next time you attend a game or watch on TV, remember the invisible 10th player that makes it all possible.