The switch will take effect in 2015, but Division I conferences will not be forced to use the flat-seamed ball during regular season play.
Despite that fact, it is widely assumed that a majority of conferences will adopt the flat-seamed ball following its inception during postseason play. As for Division II and III, their respective baseball committees will have to convene to decide on the decision in question.
For the time being, those committees are still gathering information and opinions on an appropriate plan of action regarding the potential adoption of a new baseball.
The decision to look further into the implementation of the new ball came on the heels of a collaborative research study that was conducted over one month ago by the NCAA Bat Certification lab at Washington State University and Rawlings Research lab concerning the “drag-effect” of the flat-seam baseball that is used in professional baseball versus that of the raised-seam baseball that is utilized in college baseball.
What the study found was that the “drag effect” was in fact real. According to research findings, the farther a ball is hit, the greater the drag effect on the ball.
While the meeting came on the heels of this study, the study came on the heels of an increasing push to reverse the sparse offensive production that has been witnessed throughout the the College World Series since the introduction of the BBCOR bat and the construction of the new TD Ameritrade Park in 2011, a mammoth of a stadium in its own right.
To put in perspective the significant drop in offensive production over the past two seasons in Omaha, a total of 32 home runs were hit at Rosenblatt Stadium throughout the 2011 CWS (its final year as the official stadium of the series), whereas a mere three homers were launched throughout the entire 2013 series, the lowest amount in series history since 1950.
Much like the safety concern that drove the change to the BBCOR bat, the discussion concerning the switch to the flat-seamed ball was approached cautiously.
For those concerned with the use of flat-seam balls at the college level, there is no imminent need to fret. The seams on such balls do not affect exit velocity due to the fact that a baseball will have had to travel a considerable distance for the “drag-effect” to take effect.
The new flat-seamed ball will be similar in nature to those used in minor league baseball, but the key differing factor between the two balls is the livelier core present within the minor league ball.
While a switch to the more livelier core used in professional baseballs may be plausible, such a debate will be put off until next summer wherein enough time will be given to further research before the Division I Baseball Committee convenes to proceed with the process.
In the meantime, the new balls will contain the same core as before, wherein the one clear distinguishable feature will be the lowered seam height of .031 inches, as compared to the .048 inches that was characteristic of the raised-seam ball.
Rawlings has the manufacturing rights to manufacture and distribute the new flat-seamed balls, in which they will have ample time to do so in time to distribute the balls before college teams convene for fall practice next year. At this time, teams will be given prime opportunity to test the new ball before its introduction into postseason play.
Although the argument has been brought up regarding the fact that college pitchers will have to adapt to the new seams on the ball and as a result lose movement on certain breaking ball pitches, such may be for the better, as it will give them a better feel for the level of competition at the professional level.
Perhaps more importantly, the adoption of the flat-seam ball may allow for a new-found balance in the game.
College baseball has attracted a large fan base over the course of the past decade, but with the recent downturn in offensive production, that linear interest level is at stake.
The adoption of the flat-seam baseball in NCAA tournament play is a step in the right direction towards not only promoting greater competition, but also preserving college baseball’s status as a growing fan favorite and further promoting a much broader fan base.