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Different Types of Baseballs for Different Ages

The original purpose of my writing the Baseball Buying Guide titled, “Different Types of Baseballs for Different Ages” in 2019, was to provide assistance to youth leagues, school teams, recreational and travel leagues, and parents in selecting baseballs that are appropriate for various age groups.

As of March 2024, the post has been updated with the latest information as well as enhanced navigation page. You will also find additional information on old baseballs you may find at a local baseball field.


Aren’t All Baseballs the Same?

The short answer is no! From my personal experience as a coach, there are two reasons why selecting the appropriate baseball for a player’s age group is vital for their development and safety.

Reason # 1 – Using hard baseballs for young and inexperienced players can heighten the risk of injuries. Given that many young children are prone to distractions, I have seen plenty of instances where kids are accidentally hit on the head during warm-up tosses on the field.

Reason # 2 – Young players often struggle with hand-eye coordination, including poor bat control. I can tell you that it is very painful to hit a hard ball in the wrong spot on the bat (i.e. also referred to as a bat sting or hitting off the sweet spot). You can mitigate the bat sting by replacing the worn baseball bat tape with thicker, quality bat tape, but even then, it’s no silver bullet against mastering hand-eye coordination and achieving precision with the bat.


As a coach, it’s disheartening to see some kids develop a fear of batting or throwing, ultimately choosing ‘early retirement’ from baseball.

Basic Components of a Baseball

Labels on baseballs are not always clear so you need to be able to cut through the marketing hype to determine which baseballs are appropriate for your child or team.

All baseballs consist of four components: the core, winding, cover, and stitches.

  • Core – Central to every baseball is its core, consisting of either sponge/rubber for young players, cork, cork-rubber blend for teen players, or cushioned cork center for high school and older players. The core is the primary component that influences the safety of a baseball.
  • Winding – The core may be wrapped in one, two, three, or four layers of grey wool, white wool or poly/cotton blend. Winding is the secondary component that influences the safety of a baseball
  • Cover – The cover is the outer shell of a baseball, made from either synthetic materials or genuine leather.
  • Stitches – The cover is stitched to finish the baseball. A direct byproduct of baseball stitches are the seams on baseballs. A raised seam provide a better grip, making the ball easier and safer to handle for beginners. On the other hand, flat seams is the standard at college and professional baseball games to facilitate a faster pitch speed.

Manufacturers construct baseballs using various materials and construction methods to adjust the Coefficient Of Restitution (COR), thereby setting the ball’s firmness. In other words, the COR value indicates how “bouncy” a ball is. Baseballs designed for older leagues are assigned higher COR values; for example, an NCAA baseball has a COR value of around 0.557, whereas a safety baseball for a 10-year-old may have a COR value of 0.485.

Read more about the coefficient of restitution and other cool facts baseballs in my post, the Anatomy of a baseball.

Different Types of Baseballs by Age Group

Broadly speaking, there are eight different types of baseballs, each designed for specific age groups/purpose:

Toddler baseballs (ages 3 and younger)

Toddler baseballs, are soft, squishy balls that mimic the appearance of traditional baseballs. Imagine tossing a marshmallow around and that’s the level of softness we are talking about. Their softer construction reduces impact, making these balls an excellent choice for toddlers just learning to catch.

Please head over to Best Baseballs for Toddlers for the review and recommendations

T-balls / Tee baseballs (ages 4-6)

T-balls are kind of like the training wheels of baseball. They’re softer and lighter, making them less intimidating and a lot safer for the kids. The secret sauce? A sponge and rubber core inside them that absorbs impact. his design is all about keeping the kids safe while they learn to play. No one wants a black eye from playing catch, right?

Two key things about T-balls. First, most tee baseballs come with a synthetic leather cover. They’re durable, but still have that gentle touch, so they feel legit without being too heavy or scary for the kids. Second, few tee baseballs come in a smaller size (8.5″ rather than 9″) to accommodate smaller hands.

Get the latest reviews on Pre-K and K baseballs by visiting Best T-balls for Pre-K and Kindergarten Players post.

Safety baseballs for Rec Leagues (ages 7-12)

In youth baseball (recreational, not competitive or tournament levels), the primary focus is on safety. Thus many recreational leagues use baseballs that are “certified” as RIF or SEV INDEX baseballs. The design philosophy behind RIF / SEV baseballs centers on minimizing injury risks while maintaining the game’s traditional essence. by replacing the traditional cork with sponge/rubber material.

RIF and SEV baseballs come in three levels: Level 1 (lower little league), Level 5 (mid little league) and Level 10 (upper little league).

Component-wise, these baseballs are significantly different from regular baseballs so I highly recommend you read the Complete Guide to RIF and SEV Index Baseballs post.

For a non-biased, real reviews and recommendations of safety baseballs used in youth rec baseball games, please head over to Age Appropriate Types of Baseballs and Softballs.

Youth Tournament baseballs (ages 8-18)

At the tournament level, safety remains a top priority, yet these baseballs are designed closer to professional quality to suit a higher level of competition.

Baseballs for youth tournaments up to age 16 feature a leather casing with a cork center; however, the wool/yarn string is not wound as tightly as it is in tournament baseballs intended for players aged 17 and older. These baseballs are specially designed to be compatible with youth-scale aluminum bats.

For tournament players aged 17 and older, all baseballs are encased in leather and contain cushioned cork pills with tightly wound wool/yarn strings. The COR value of high school and college baseballs is slightly de-tuned to accommodate the aluminum bats used by more mature players.

For the latest review of tournament baseballs and specific recommendations (written by yours truly, not some AI writer), please head over to Competition Grade Baseballs – Youth Tournaments

Middle and High-School baseballs (ages 13-18)

Middle and High school baseballs share more similarities with tournament baseballs than recreation baseballs, featuring leather covers and cork cores wrapped in wool. The main difference lies in the seam construction: middle and high school baseballs have raised seams for better grip, while college and professional levels may use lower-profile seams for reduced air resistance and higher velocity throws and hits.

Get the latest reviews on upper school baseballs by visiting Baseballs for Middle and High Schools

College baseballs

College baseballs bear a close resemblance to MLB balls, especially since the introduction of flat seams aimed at reducing air resistance, thus aligning college baseball more closely with professional standards. Despite these similarities, baseballs used in college games are designed with the use of aluminum bats in mind, contrasting with the wooden bats employed in professional baseball.

Read more about various baseballs in my post, Types of Baseballs Used in Colleges.

Professional-grade baseballs

In the professional baseball hierarchy, two primary categories emerge: Minor League and Major League baseballs. At the foundational levels (Rookie to Double-A), athletes engage with Minor League baseballs made in China. These balls are slightly softer—a nuance likely imperceptible to the casual observer—thereby offering a marginally more forgiving experience for emerging talent advancing through the ranks.

Transitioning into Triple-A and subsequently into the Major Leagues marks a significant shift, as it introduces athletes to Major League baseballs (made in Rawlings’ state-of-the-art facility in Costa Rica). This change, effective from 2019, aligns the equipment used in Triple-A with that of the Major Leagues, preparing players for the peak of their professional journey. MLB baseballs are tighter and have flat seams.

Read more about professional-grade baseballs in my post, Difference Between MLB and MiLB Baseballs

Practice baseballs

Practice balls can largely be classified as training balls in youth baseball. For older players, most coaches use the term “practice baseballs” interchangeably with “game-worn baseballs,” although there are regular and blemished baseballs specifically marketed as practice baseballs.

Most “practice baseball” models are targeted at a specific age group, so it is important to match your needs to a particular brand of practice balls.

Regardless of what you buy, you need to ensure that you DO NOT feed synthetic-covered baseballs into your pitching machines, as the synthetic material will rub off onto the pitching wheels and ruin them in the long run.

Please visit Practice Baseballs – Complete Reference Guide for more in-depth information


Having spent over a decade coaching youth baseball, I’ve witnessed firsthand the profound impact a baseball ball can have on a young player’s experience and development. It’s disheartening to see players, brimming with potential, develop a fear of batting or throwing due to negative experiences. These moments can push players towards an unwelcome ‘early retirement’ from a sport that offers so much in terms of growth, teamwork, and resilience.

This is why, as a coach deeply committed to the well-being and progress of my players, I cannot stress enough the importance of choosing the age-appropriate baseballs for your child or team. The right kind of baseballs, tailored to age and skill level, can significantly reduce the risk of injury and enhance the overall playing experience.

There you have it. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask by leaving a comment below. Also, if you found this post to be helpful, please do me a favor and sign up for my newsletter.

Please don’t forget to visit the Reference Guide to Baseballs page to read other fascinating information about baseballs!

Frequently Asked Questions

Below is a list of some common questions that have been asked over the years.

What does “Official League Baseball” mean?

  • An “official league baseball” refers to a baseball that meets the specific standards set by a particular league or governing body. These standards typically define the size, weight, materials, construction, and performance characteristics of the baseball.
  • Although the official MLB game-ready baseballs are solely manufactured by Rawlings, other manufacturers stamp their baseballs with “Official League” to imply that they come with the same nine-inch circumference, weigh about five ounces. The confusing part is that not all components of a baseball are the same, even if the ball is stamped “Official League”.
  • MLB baseballs are made with a very specific cushioned cork center, wrapped in unique wool yarn, and covered with a full-grain leather cover along with 108 double stitches. Other brands with the “official league baseball” marking may not contain these components.

Can you explain the differences between various makers of baseballs?

Can you help me with buying baseballs for my child?

Please read my post Age Appropriate Types of Baseballs and Softballs.

Are baseballs used in Japan same as MLB baseballs?

  • The short answer is no. In 1872, an American professor Horace Wilson introduced baseball to his students at Kaisei School in Tokyo. Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) league, equivalent to MLB, uses a slightly smaller and better quality leather made by Mizuno. To find out more, read the “Comparing Baseballs Used in NPB vs MLB” post.

What is NOCSAE?

  • The National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) was formed in 1969 to decrease the number of severe head and cervical spine injuries by making equipment safer.
  • In conjunction with National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) requirements, most high school games must use baseballs that are stamped with NFHS and NOCSAE logos.

What is NFHS?

  • The purpose of the NFHS standardization is to promote a level playing field by ensuring consistency in the equipment used in NFHS-sanctioned school competitions.
  • In conjunction with NOCSAE requirements, high school baseballs must be stamped with NFHS and NOCSAE logos.

What does “CROLB” stand for on a baseball?

  • CROLB is the designation used by Rawlings. “C” denotes split leather cover (not 100% leather), “R” denotes rec balls or for practice. OLB is an abbreviation for Official League Baseball.

What is the official baseball of Little League?

  • The Spalding Little League World Series Official RST Baseball is used during tournament play and in the Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania. This ball has a full grain leather cover, gray wool winding, and cushion cork center.

What size baseball is used in high school?

  • It is 9.00–9.25 inches (228.60–234.95 mm) in circumference, (2.86–2.94 in or 72.64–74.68 mm in diameter), and masses from 5.00 to 5.25 ounces (141.75 to 148.83 g). The yarn or string used to wrap the baseball can be up to one mile (1.6 km) in length.

What are OLB3 baseballs?

  • Rawlings OLB3 Official League Baseball-Single. The Rawlings OLB3 Official League Baseball features a durable synthetic leather cover with Rawlings Major League Seams for a professional look and feel. The OLB3 Official League Baseball also features a solid cork and rubber center.

Do all baseballs have the same size?

  • For the most part, the size and weight is consistent for all levels of baseball, measuring 9-1/4 inches in circumference, and weighing 5-1/4 ounces. However, Japanese professional-grade baseballs are slightly smaller than MLB professional-grade baseballs.

What are safety balls?

  • Safety baseballs are designed for,of balls and are lighter to reduce the impact force

Are baseballs made by hand?

  • Attempts have been made in the past to switch to machines without much success. So yes, most baseballs are still made by hand (especially for professional grade baseballs). All MLB baseballs are currently made by Rawlings factory in Costa Rica where it produces approximately 900,000 baseballs. The finished balls are boxed up and shipped to Miami.

Why do they change balls in baseball?

  • At MLB games, balls that come in contact with the infield dirt are immediately replaced either by the home plate umpire or pitcher. This is lot different than it used to be decades ago because back then, pitchers always tried to keep scuffed up balls in play to gain pitch movement.
  • Today, many pitchers are power fastballs so they want the smoothest baseball covers for maximum speed. In addition, MLB allows players to throw in game balls when the inning is over to “win over young fans”.
  • In MiLB, college, middle and high school games, balls are kept in play for longer period of time due to budget constraints

How much does the MLB pay for baseballs?

  • Approximately 900,000 baseballs used by MLB teams each year (this figure includes spring training games, practices, post-season games, etc.) The average cost of a dozen baseballs is $85, MLB spends approximately $6.375 million every year.
  • The bright side spending all this money on baseballs is that MLB partially owns Rawlings, the official (and only) supplier of baseballs for MLB and MiLB (AAA teams).

What is the weight of a little league baseball?

  • The actual standard weight for a typical baseball is 5 ounces (or 141.75 grams). However, it can also weigh as much as 5 ¼ ounces (or 148.83 grams). The ball, which is currently machine-made, can also weigh anywhere between 5 ounces and 5 ¼ ounces.

How many baseballs are used in a MLB game?

  • In a typical game, two teams will go through approximately 100 or so baseballs which means each game ball is used only for few pitches (pitched baseballs hitting the dirt are usually removed immediately.  This is done to prevent pitchers from gaining unfair advantage because scuffed up baseballs tend to have better grip and better pitch movement).
  • Since there are 30 teams playing each other in 162 games each, there are 2,430 games per season (two teams per game so we multiply 15 x 162 which equals 2,430). If we assume 100 game balls per game, multiplying 2,430 games by 100  baseballs per game gives us 243,000 game baseballs used per regular season. This number does not include spring training games, playoff games, minor league games or batting practice balls.

How many baseballs are prepared before a game?

  • Before each MLB game, the home (hosting) team is responsible for providing balls ready for play. On average, they prepare eight to ten dozen Rawlings baseballs before the game.
  • There is a special mud that is dug up from Delaware and sold under the brand Lena Backburne Rubbing Mud (read more bout it in detail at Wiki page here).
  • Team equipment staff are responsible for lightly rubbing Lena Blackburne Rubbing Mud to each baseballs (around 8-10 dozen baseballs).

Has an MLB game ever ran out of baseballs?

  • There was only one instance when a professional baseball game ran out of game balls. It happened on September 27, 1953 between Baltimore Orioles and Chicago White Sox. Baltimore was strapped for cash so they stopped buying baseballs. There wasn’t any game balls left when the final game (out of three games) went into extra innings. Chicago White Sox ended up providing some used practice balls to finish the game. The Orioles lost all three games.

Which baseballs do Minor League Baseball (MiLB) teams use?

  • Unlike MLB games where Rawlings is the only baseball used, minor league teams source their baseballs from multiple manufacturers (according to many minor league players, these balls have varying degrees of quality with larger seams and balls not travelling as far when hit).
  • This practice changed in 2019 when MLB and Minor League Baseball agreed that Triple-A minor league games will use the same Rawlings baseballs used by the MLB. Lower MiLB (Double-A and below) minor league teams will continue to use a mixture of baseballs sourced by multiple vendors.

What are some differences between MLB and MiLB game baseballs?

  • Rawlings produces MLB game balls (ROMLB) at their Costa Rica plant that produces around 80,000 dozen baseballs or around 960,000 baseballs per year.  Costa Rica plant has the highest quality control with the use of highest grade leather and other materials.
  • Rawlings MiLB game balls are produced at their Chinese plants which produces over 2 million baseballs per year with varying degrees of quality.

Why are there 108 stitches on a baseball?

  • There are 108 double stitches on a baseball. The first and last stitches are completely hidden. They are sewn by hand, using 88 inches of waxed red thread per baseball. You can read more about in my post titled, Baseball Stitches – How Many Stitches Are there?

What kind of leather are baseballs made of?

  • There are two primary types of materials used as baseball covers: leather or synthetic. An in-depth information was discussed in the above section here

What’s the average life of a baseball?

  • 90 new baseballs are required at the beginning of the game. Between 60 and 70 balls are used per game. The average life of a major league baseball is 6 pitches.
  • If you want to read more about why MLB goes through so many baseballs in a given game, please read the excellent article from Post-Gazette

What does MLB do with old baseballs?

  • New baseballs that have been prepared with Lena Blackburne Muds are simply saved for the next home game.
  • All baseballs taken out during the game are mostly used for batting practice.  Some teams sell slightly used game balls to their fans at their stadium but this practice is not widely held. If a ball has a significant historical value, it may be send to team’s museum.

I have 2 dogs. Are any of these baseballs safe for my dogs to play with?

  • No, baseballs are not suitable to be used as dog toys.

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Friday 16th of February 2024

Hi Baseball Dad,

WoW, I had no idea how important a baseball could be until reading your very informed article so thank you.

However, I know nothing about baseballs at all. I pack shoe boxes for poor children that go all over the world ~ ages 5-9 and/or 10-14 years old.

I bought a dozen baseballs and the title was Hard Wood Core baseballs. They do not even bounce and I'm not sure if they are dangerous for children especially because I do not know if they even play baseball. I thought they could play catch but someone told me that they could get hurt with such a hard ball and they would need a glove to even play catch. Most likely, they would not have or be able to afford gloves. Would they be a danger for 10 to 14 year olds?? Could you recommend the right kind of ball that I could buy instead of the hard ball??

Any advice would be very appreciated.

Baseball Dad

Saturday 17th of February 2024

Hi Carol,

Can you tell me where you bought them from? Can you email me some pictures of it to kevin [at] 99baseballs [com]?

Traditional baseball "pills" are made with cork/rubber combination. I am not sure what you have is a baseball with a wood pill or the entire baseball is made from wood.

Baseballs made entirely from wood are meant for displays, not actual game play.

If you live in a US48 state, I may be able to send you a free box of baseballs so make sure to include your mailing address in your email.


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Antonio Perrotta

Wednesday 31st of May 2023

Hello ! Great article and I learned a lot with it thank you very much !

I just bought a dozen Rawlings OLB3 solid cork and Rubber center baseballs, my intentions with these baseballs are to practice batting with my tee and to play recreationally with my friends, my questions is : we all play/practice with wooden bats, are these baseballs okay for the wood bats or they will break them faster than a cushioned cork baseball?


Baseball Dad

Thursday 1st of June 2023

Hi Antonio,

Thanks for your kind words. OLB3 baseballs are excellent for light rec game or practice. They can handle wood or metal bats without a problem.

If you hit like Aaron Judge, you may find that ball covers may detach from the cork core on occasion.

Chase Bostick

Friday 28th of April 2023

Should I be concerned if a coach is trying to use a high school baseball in a rec dixie youth 8-9 yr old leauge. We use diamond DOL-1 or DDY. He is trying to say high school baseballs are the same as dixie baseballs and when me and my son hit balls there is definitely a difference. Could you clean this up for me?

Baseball Dad

Sunday 30th of April 2023

Hi Chase,

Thanks for your comment. I took a quick look at the DYB rulebook for 2023 (, pages 20, 21), and unfortunately, it is not clear which baseballs are allowed/not allowed. I have reached out to my contact at DYB for clarification.

However, according to the rule book, all DYB baseballs are supposed to be marked with "APPROVED FOR LOCAL LEAGUE PLAY" stamps. Diamond DDY, DDB-1, DDY-1 and DDY-2 baseballs have this stamp, as well as Rawlings RDYB1 baseballs.

Diamond DOL-A HS is primarily used in high school games as this ball is very hard, and comes with a cushioned cork pill. DOL-A HS ball is not that much different than college/MiLB/MLB baseballs so they have high exit velocity, especially off of a metal bat.

Diamond DOL-1 HS is designed more for practices (comes with a cork and rubber pill which makes the ball slightly softer than DOL-1HS but it is still hard when compared to DDY baseballs).

According to the DYB rulebook, a baseball with an NFHS stamp (National Federation of State High School Associations) should not permitted but you may want to check with your local league.

You said your son is on a rec team, but even if he was competing at the tournament level of play, I don't think playing with high school baseballs for this young age group is a good idea.

During the 1990s, there was a "battle" between the baseball purists (who wanted to use hardballs for all levels of play) vs. parents who wanted safer balls for younger players. Today, most national youth leagues mandate the use of "safety baseballs" and for a good reason.

I know due to COVID issues, coaches and leagues were scrambling for balls but the supply chain has stabilized so it should not be difficult to get DDY balls.

Besides, if a coach or parent knowingly breaks the rule and someone gets hurt, they may be held liable.

You should talk to one of your board members to express your concerns.

Let me know how it turns out.