Rosin Bag: What Is It Used For In Baseball?

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rosin bag

It’s no secret that pitchers rely on a good grip to be successful on the mound. If you’ve ever been to a professional or minor league game, you maybe wondered what that small white bag on the back of the pitcher’s mound was. Well, they call it a rosin bag, and pitchers have used them for years to improve their grip on the baseball. However, many pitchers believe that the rosin bag isn’t enough to create a proper grip on the baseball. This is why they’ve turned to other substances, such as sunscreen and pine tar


What Is A Baseball Rosin Bag?

Baseball pitchers typically use a small cloth bag filled with rosin powder, called a rosin bag, to improve their grip on the baseball.

It is a tradition that started with the game of baseball itself. In the game’s early days, pitchers would rub the baseballs on their clothes to get a better grip. Then, someone had the idea to put the sticky resin in a bag so it would be easier to apply to the ball. 

Why do pitchers use rosin?

Rosin bags are now a common sight on the mound, and every pitcher has their own method for using them. Some pitchers will apply rosin to their entire hand, while others will use it only on their fingertips. Some pitchers will even lick their fingers before they grip the ball. Apparently, this helps the rosin stick to their hand.

Pitchers often use rosin bags, which are small enough to fit in the palm, as a necessary tool to get a better grip on the baseball. Some position players also apply rosin to their gloves or bats to enhance their grip, even though pitchers mainly use it.

Aside from keeping your hands void of moisture, this is my favorite use of the rosin baseball bag:


What Is Rosin In Baseball – The History

The rosin bag made its debut in baseball around 1887, offering pitchers a way to enhance their grip on the ball with powdered pine resin. However, by 1919, rosin and other grip-enhancing substances faced a ban. The challenge of enforcing this prohibition led to its reversal, with the National League reintroducing rosin in baseball in 1925 and the American League in 1931. The primary purpose of the rosin bag has always been to absorb moisture, ensuring a pitcher’s hand remains dry for optimal grip.

For years, pitchers relied on rosin to enhance their grip. Before the advent of the baseball rosin bag, they would stash a tiny pouch of rosin in their pockets. To streamline its use and give umpires better oversight, they introduced the rosin bag.

The rosin bag has become such a staple in baseball. It’s now rare to see a pitcher take the mound without using it a few times during their outing. Umpires now inspect the rosin baseball bag as part of the game’s equipment.


Recent Incidents Involving Rosin Bags in Baseball

The use of rosin bags in baseball has been a longstanding practice, but recent incidents have brought renewed attention to its application and potential misuse:

  • Cardinals’ Giovanny Gallegos Incident: During a game, Cardinals reliever Giovanny Gallegos was approached by umpires after he applied rosin to his left arm. The umpires, concerned about the potential for foreign substances, wiped down Gallegos’ arm to ensure compliance with league rules.
  • Max Scherzer’s Ejection: In a game between the Mets and the Dodgers, right-handed pitcher Max Scherzer was ejected after umpires found his hand to be unusually sticky. Scherzer, defending himself, insisted that he only used sweat and rosin. This incident sparked significant debate, especially given the enhanced enforcement of foreign substance rules introduced for the 2023 season. The rules explicitly state that rosin cannot be applied to the glove and that its misuse could be considered as using a foreign substance.
  • Domingo Germán’s Rosin Controversy: During a game between the Minnesota Twins and the New York Yankees, starting pitcher Domingo Germán was involved in a rosin-related controversy. Umpire James Hoye noticed excess rosin on Germán’s hands and asked him to clean them. Despite Germán’s compliance, the tackiness remained, leading to further discussions on the field. While Germán was not ejected, Twins’ manager Rocco Baldelli was, after expressing his disagreement with the umpire’s decision not to eject Germán.

These incidents underscore the challenges and controversies surrounding the use of rosin in modern baseball. As the league continues to enforce rules against foreign substances, players, managers, and umpires must navigate the fine line between tradition and rule compliance.


How Are Rosin Bags Made?

Manufacturers produce rosin powder by extracting sap from pine or fir trees during spring and boiling it to remove turpentine. The process leaves behind a dense, hard resin that manufacturers either leave as-is or grind into a powder.

Where Does Rosin Come From?

After the recent foreign substance debacle in MLB, the league is cracking down even more. Pitchers can no longer have anything on their person when they come to the mound, and umpires will be checking. If they discover anything, they will immediately eject the pitcher.

Major League Baseball has implemented new rules and regulations to reduce the use of foreign substances on baseballs. Humidors are now present in all 30 ballparks to regulate the baseballs’ moisture levels.

In addition, teams can no longer use different rosin suppliers. While some pitchers don’t like the new rules, MLB is hoping to create a level playing field and decrease the number of pitchers using foreign substances.

Previously, teams could buy rosin from any company, so there was no oversight. To create more consistency, the league hired Pelican Bat Wax, a small, San Francisco-based company, as their only rosin bags supplier. 


Post-Pandemic Rosin Baseball Bag Use

The global pandemic brought about numerous changes in the world of sports, and baseball was no exception. With health and safety at the forefront, Major League Baseball introduced new guidelines to minimize risks, and the use of rosin bags saw some alterations:

  • Individual Rosin Baseball Bags: To prevent cross-contamination and ensure player safety, each pitcher was assigned their own individual rosin bag. This measure aimed to reduce the potential spread of germs and viruses between players.
  • Enhanced Monitoring: Given the heightened awareness around foreign substances and the potential for misuse, umpires were given more authority to monitor and regulate the use of rosin bags. This included more frequent checks and stricter enforcement of rules.
  • Limitations on Application: While rosin is permitted, players were advised to use it judiciously and avoid excessive application. This was to ensure that the substance did not become a medium for contamination or misuse.
  • Sanitization Protocols: Teams were encouraged to adopt regular sanitization protocols for rosin bags. This included cleaning and disinfecting bags between games to ensure they remained free from potential contaminants.
  • Clear Communication: Players were educated about the new guidelines and the reasons behind them. This was to ensure compliance and foster a collective responsibility towards health and safety.

Rosin In Baseball – MLB Rules

Since the game’s integrity is extremely important, MLB created new guidelines around foreign substances that all teams would have to adhere to. The new rules state that if pitchers use foreign substances to manipulate the baseball, officials will eject and suspend them for ten games.

Pitchers would also be subject to mandatory inspections by the umpire during the game. The reason for these new guidelines was that pitchers have been using foreign substances like spider tack that significantly improve their performance.

It was no longer about getting rid of the sweat or improving the grip among pitchers. Fans want to see home runs, but these foreign substances increased the number of strikeouts and no-hitters. The equivalent would be allowing hitters to use metal bats at the plate. 

The rules around rosin bags state that:

  • Umpires must review the rosin bag and game balls before each game
  • Only the umpire can place the official rosin bag on the back of the mound before the game
  • The pitcher can only use rosin on his hands
  • Cannot apply rosin directly on the ball
  • Cannot use the rosin bag on their glove
  • Cannot use the rosin bag on their uniform
  • The pitcher can only use the rosin bag when the umpire calls time and they step off the mound
  • If it’s raining, the pitcher may place the rosin bag in their pocket at the discretion of the umpire
  • MLB prohibits all substances except for rosin
  • Players may not intentionally/unintentionally combine other substances with rosin. This includes things like sunscreen. Doing so can result in ejection and suspension
  • Pitchers cannot use sunscreen during night games in closed-roofed parks
  • If a live ball hits the rosin bag, it is still considered to be in play

Rosin vs. Pine Tar: What’s the Difference?

When it comes to enhancing grip in baseball, two substances often come to the forefront: rosin and pine tar. Both improve a player’s grip on the ball, but they offer different characteristics and uses.

Rosin Baseball Bags:

  • Source: Derived from pine trees, rosin is the solidified sap or resin
  • Appearance: It’s typically found in a powdered form, contained within a cloth bag
  • Use: Primarily used by pitchers, rosin helps absorb moisture, ensuring that their hands remain dry for an optimal grip. It’s especially useful on humid days or when a pitcher’s palms get sweaty
  • Legality: MLB allows the use of rosin, provided it’s used in its designated form. Misuse, such as combining it with other substances, can lead to penalties

Pine Tar:

  • Source: Pine tar is produced by distilling the wood of pine trees
  • Appearance: It has a sticky, viscous consistency and is darker in color
  • Use: Batters often apply pine tar to their bats to prevent slippage. Some pitchers have also been known to use it, albeit illicitly, to get a better grip on the ball
  • Legality: While batters can use pine tar on their bats (up to a certain limit on the handle), pitchers are prohibited from using it. Its sticky nature can alter the ball’s trajectory, giving pitchers an unfair advantage

In summary, while both rosin and pine tar originate from pine trees and serve to enhance grip, their applications in baseball are distinct. Rosin is a pitcher’s legal aid to combat moisture, while pine tar, though beneficial for batters, remains a contentious and illegal substance for pitchers.


Best Pine Tar For Baseball

There are a few brands that make excellent baseball rosin bags and pine tar. Pelican Bat Wax, Rawlings, and Marucci all make high-quality rosin bags that will last for a long time.

All these brands make bags filled with 100% natural pure rock rosin. This ensures that the bag will provide a consistent grip throughout the game.

Our Pick
Pelican Bat Wax Pine Tar Baseball Stick
$18.97

The official rosin bag supplier for MLB. You know the quality will be excellent, and it comes at an affordable price.

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04/28/2024 04:04 am GMT

Marucci – One of the premier names in the game, Marucci offers rosin bags that both hitters and pitchers can use for a drier and firmer grip.

Rawling Small Rosin Bag An excellent option for younger players, this rosin bag will keep their hands nice and dry while attempting to rack up strikeouts. 


What Is A Rosin Bag In Baseball – Final Thoughts

As a pitcher, you’re always looking for an edge. Something that will give you just a little bit more control over the ball. For many, that edge comes in the form of rosin.

Earlier, we mentioned that pitchers dry their fingers and palms with rosin powder, derived from pine trees, to improve their grip on the ball. In the minor leagues, pitchers frequently use rosin to improve their grip on the ball, especially during hot and humid weather conditions.

In the majors, it can be the difference between a well-placed pitch and one that sails right down the middle. Either way, it’s a crucial tool for any pitcher looking to get an edge on the competition.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is rosin used for in baseball?

A rosin bag helps pitchers improve their grip on the ball by absorbing moisture from their hands.

How do resin and rosin bags differ?

Resin is sticky, while manufacturers make rosin as a dry powder from pine sap.

Are rosin bags tacky?

No, rosin bags contain a dry powder that absorbs moisture, rather than providing stickiness.

Is using rosin permitted in MLB?

Yes, MLB allows pitchers to use rosin bags, but they must adhere to specific guidelines.

What makes rosin pricey?

The extraction process from pine trees and its demand in various industries contribute to rosin’s cost.

Why might a team have two rosin bags?

Post-pandemic rules recommend individual rosin bags for each pitcher to prevent cross-contamination.

How often do umpires inspect pitchers for rosin misuse?

Umpires can inspect pitchers at their discretion, especially if there’s suspicion of rule violations.

Can pitchers lick their fingers during a game?

Pitchers can moisten their fingers but must wipe them before gripping the ball.

What is rock rosin vs powder rosin in baseball?

Rock rosin is a solid chunk used directly for grip by tapping it on the hands, while powder rosin is a fine powder that can be spread or mixed with other substances for enhanced grip.

Chris F.

Chris F.

Chris Forbes is the founder and editor of BaseballMode.com, a leading blog in the youth baseball space. As a lifelong baseball player, coach and fan, he decided to team up with his young son to offer advice and share their experiences with the sport they both love. Chris lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children.

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