- There are real and subtle differences between age-specific baseballs
- Baseballs geared towards older kids are harder so it travels faster
Have you wondered if all youth baseballs are pretty much the same and that manufacturers are taking advantage of parents and coaches by marketing them differently at inflated prices?
I mean, they are all supposed to be 9 inches in circumference and weigh around 5 ounces, right?
I can’t tell you for 100% certainty since there are so many brands and models but based on my experience, I can tell you that at least for Rawlings youth baseballs, there are real differences.
Rawlings 8-and-under baseballs
Rawlings markets two different models for 8-and-under players:
- Rawlings R8U
- Rawlings OLB3
Both baseballs have a synthetic cover so the balls tend to feel slick or plasticky.
Because most 8 year old and younger players since they tend to have smaller hands, R8U and OLB3 baseball’s circumference is slightly less than 9 inches (8.75 inches).
Please note that recreation baseball teams are usually created with two or more age groups when competing with other rec teams. Tournament/travel teams compete at a specific age level (i.e. 8U, 9U, 10U, etc.).
Rawlings states that its R8U and OLB baseballs are meant for recreational and practice use only
Rawlings R8U baseball
Rawlings R8U baseball comes in three parts:
- Synthetic cover – some balls do not indicate if its synthetic or leather; in those cases, it’s fairly safe to assume that the cover is synthetic
- Thread – used as a binding layer between cover and ball
- Core ball – mixture of crushed cork and ground rubber (glued together)
On average a single Rawlings R8U baseball weighs consistently at 5 ounces with the core ball weighing at 4.4 ounces.
There is no separate rubber “pill” found in “normal” baseballs (you can read more about different types of baseballs here – https://99baseballs.com/equipment/baseballs/different-types-of-baseballs-for-different-ages/)
Rawlings OLB3 baseball
Rawlings OLB3 baseball is almost identical to Rawlings R8U baseball except:
The circumference is very close to 9 inches and most balls weigh right around 5 to 5.1 ounces.
Lastly, Rawlings markets baseballs for 8-and-under balls players under “R8U” or “OLB3” monikers.
Rawlings OLB also sports a synthetic cover, but unlike R8U, it has:
- OLB3’s synthetic cover is slightly thicker so it has higher seams
- Core ball contains larger rubber chunks
- Core ball is more dense (better adhesive?)
Lastly, unlike R8U baseballs, OLB3’s cover seems to not last long.
The Bottom Line
If your child is just moving up from tee ball, I would suggest OLB3 baseballs since they are slightly smaller than regular baseballs.
If your child is more experienced or have larger hands, I would skip the R8U and move up to Rawlings CROLB baseballs (read below)
Rawlings 10U Baseballs
Rawlings markets two different models for 10-and-under players:
- Rawlings R10U
- Rawlings CROLB
Quite frankly, there is no difference between these two baseballs.
Both baseballs come with a leather cover*, a thin layer of thread (used as a binding layer) and a composite ball (mixture of rubber and cork; seems to be identical to R8U core ball).
*based on look and feel, I am fairly certain this is a split leather (lower grade leather that has been plated and stamped with a leather pattern).
Rawlings R8U and CROLB baseballs are perfectly fine for most 10 year old and under players but some balls can get out of shape if hit hard (as may be the case when coaches are hitting long balls during practice):
The Bottom Line
I DO NOT consider either the Rawlings R10U or Rawlings CROLB to be game balls but they are good practice balls.
The cover may be leather but it seems to have some sort of glossy layer on top which makes the balls feel more like R8U or OLB3 baseballs.
For 9 year old players, either balls will be fine for practice but for 10 year old players, especially at a more competitive level, you may want to skip these balls a go with Wilson A1035 batting practice baseballs.
Rawlings 12U Baseballs
One major difference from baseballs used in younger group is that most brands for 12u teams come with wound yarn. There are 4 parts:
- Leather cover
- Layer of fine thread
- Wound yarn
- Cork/rubber ball
Rawlings markets two different models for 12-and-under players:
- Rawlings R12U
- Rawlings ROLB2
Much like Rawlings R10U and CROLB baseballs being similar, outside appearance/feel and inside of R12U and ROLB2 baseballs are identical:
The circumference of a core ball both measure at 6.25″ inches and weigh at 2.2 ounces. Unlike the cork/rubber mixture balls for younger players, these core balls contains 50/50 mix of rubber and cork bits in a compact ball.
Once again, these are considered by many to be practice balls only.
So how do these compare to game balls? If we were to compare solely based on recommended age groups, a lost of 12u tournament teams use either Rawlings RCAL1 or MacGregor 74CAL baseballs (see below pix)
You can see that MacGregor has a thicker yarn winding with a smaller “pill” which makes these balls jump off of a bat lot faster than Rawlings R12U/ROLB2 baseballs.
Most leagues do not provide managers and coaches with a bucket of practice baseballs so I understand the need to balance your needs vs wants when it comes to buying baseballs.
Hopefully, I was able to provide you with some valuable information that you can use when making a purchase.
As always, thank you for volunteering!