why is pine tar illegal in baseball

Why Is Pine Tar Illegal In Baseball: Understanding The Rule

why is pine tar illegal in baseball

Pine tar and its status in the world of baseball have long been a source of debate. Among the questions that arise, “Why is pine tar illegal in baseball” stands at the forefront, capturing the attention of both players and fans. The use of this sticky substance has become synonymous with controversy, as the MLB heavily regulates its usage. In this article, we will explore the history of pine tar and its impact on the game of baseball.

What is Pine Tar in Baseball?

Players frequently apply pine tar, a sticky substance derived from pine tree sap, to their baseball bats to enhance grip. This is particularly true in damp or humid environments.

Although hitters are allowed to use pine tar in baseball, there are restrictions on the amount they can apply. According to MLB rules, a player can apply pine tar to the bat up to 18 inches from the end of the handle. If there is an excess amount, the bat is deemed illegal.

On the other hand, baseball prohibits pitchers from using pine tar or any other foreign substance on the ball.This is because it can change the ball’s flight and give the pitcher an unfair advantage. If a pitcher uses pine tar or any other foreign substance, the umpire will eject them from the game. They may also face a suspension.

In addition to baseball, sports such as hockey and football utilize pine tar. It also finds application in woodworking and serves as a natural insect repellent.

Why is Pine Tar Illegal in Baseball?

This section will explore why pine tar is illegal in baseball and the rules surrounding its use. When you think about it, the reason for regulating it becomes straightforward. If someone uses it to gain an advantage, it has no place in the game. MLB has put some serious regulations in place to keep things fair and square on the field.

Why Is Pine Tar Illegal In Baseball – The Pine Tar Incident

The infamous Pine Tar Incident of 1983 involved George Brett of the Kansas City Royals. In a game against the Yankees, Brett hit a home run. The umpires, however, ruled that he used an illegal bat because there was too much pine tar on it. They called him out, and the Yankees won the game. The incident sparked a huge debate about the use of pine tar in baseball. This led to changes in the rules.

Ban on Foreign Substances

Baseball strictly forbids the use of any foreign substance on the ball or the pitcher’s hand. Hitters are allowed to apply pine tar on the barrel or handle of the bat. However, they must ensure that the amount of pine tar applied does not exceed 18 inches from the bottom of the handle. The ban on pitchers using pine tar is in place to prevent them from gaining an unfair advantage by improving their grip.

While pine tar is legal for hitters to use, there are rules surrounding its use.

Rule 3.02c The bat handle, for not more than 18 inches from its end, may be covered or treated with any material or substance to improve the grip. Any such material or substance that extends past the 18-inch limitation shall cause the bat to be removed from the game.

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Pine Tar Rules For Pitchers

The use of pine tar, spider tack, or any other substance on the ball or the pitchers’ hands is strictly prohibited. If the umpire detects any foreign substance on a pitcher, they can eject them and even issue a suspension. These illegal substances can affect the ball’s spin and movement, making it more difficult for batters to hit.

Pitchers can use rosin, which is legal in MLB. It helps dry their hands and improves their grip on the ball.

Rule 3.01 No player shall intentionally discolor or damage the ball by rubbing it with soil, rosin, paraffin, licorice, sand-paper, emery- paper or other foreign substance.

Alternatives To Help With Pitch Grip

Pitchers have explored many different substances that were within the boundaries of the rules. One commonly used substance is rosin. Rosin is a powdered material that comes from pine trees and it helps absorb moisture from the pitcher’s hands. It also provides a dry and tacky surface for a better grip on the ball.

Another popular combination involves the use of sunscreen and rosin. When mixed together, sunscreen and rosin create a sticky residue, which helps the grip without violating the foreign substance rule. These alternatives offer pitchers a chance to improve their grip while staying within the rules.


The MLB takes the enforcement of pine tar rules in baseball seriously. The league has a number of measures in place to ensure that players are not using illegal substances to gain an unfair advantage.

One of the primary ways that the MLB enforces the rules is through umpires. Umpires are responsible for checking the bats of all players before each game. This is done to ensure they don’t have too much pine tar or any other illegal substances on them. If an umpire deems a bat illegal, they will remove it from the game and the player will be ejected.

In addition to checking bats, umpires will also monitor pitchers for illegal substances. If they find an illegal substance, the pitcher will be ejected from the game. They may face additional penalties, (see Max Scherzer).

Players who are found to be using illegal substances may also face fines and suspensions from the league. The severity of the punishment will depend on the nature of the offense and the player’s history of rule violations.

Overall, MLB maintains a level playing field by actively enforcing the rules concerning pine tar and other illegal substances. Despite having turned a blind eye to the steroid era in the 90s, MLB is now actively addressing the issue and striving to ensure that all players play by the same rules.

How To Apply Pine Tar To A Bat

First things first, you’ll need a few supplies. Obviously, you’ll need some pine tar. You can find it at most sports stores or online. Make sure to get the sticky, gooey stuff and not the liquid version.

Here are some tips on how to apply pine tar to a bat:

  • Clean the bat: Wipe away any debris to create a clean surface. This will make it easier to apply and will make the pine tar stickier.
  • Uncap the pine tar stick: Most pine tar sticks come with a paper wrapper around the pine tar itself. Remove the wrapper and expose a few inches of the pine tar.
  • Apply the pine tar: Rub the pine tar onto the handle of the bat in a thin, even layer. Make sure to cover the entire handle, but avoid applying too much pine tar, as this can make the bat too sticky and difficult to handle.
  • Spread the pine tar: Once the pine tar is applied, use a rag to spread it evenly across the bat handle. This will help to create a consistent grip.
  • Let it dry: Allow the pine tar to dry for a few minutes before using the bat. This will help to ensure that the pine tar has stuck to the bat and will provide the best grip possible.

Can You Use Pine Tar In Youth Leagues?

Youth baseball leagues follow the same rules as professional baseball leagues when it comes to the use of pine tar. According to Rule 1.10 of Little League Baseball, the use of pine tar or any sticky substance is against the rules. If a player is caught using pine tar, the bat will be declared illegal and removed from play. Youth leagues can ensure that all players have an equal chance to succeed based on their skills and abilities by banning pine tar.

In conclusion, the use of pine tar is strictly prohibited in youth baseball leagues. Coaches and players need to actively understand the rules and regulations regarding the use of pine tar and actively refrain from using it under any circumstances. By following the rules and playing fairly, youth baseball players can develop their skills and abilities and enjoy the game to its fullest.

Why Is Pine Tar Illegal In Baseball – Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the use of pine tar in baseball has been a controversial and heavily regulated topic. Although pine tar can enhance players’ grip on the bat, exceeding specific limits renders it illegal. MLB’s strict regulations are in place to ensure a level playing field between pitchers and hitters, preventing any unfair advantages that could tip the scales in either direction.

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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