What exactly is pine tar? Is it illegal in baseball? Why do players use it? Where does it come from? How is it made? These are all questions the team at JustBats.com gets from our favorite bat fanatics, so we decided to lay them all out and answer them one at a time.
Before we get started, we'd like to point out that we do not sell pine tar because we specialize in baseball bats and softball bats. But, just because we don't sell pine tar doesn't mean we aren't experts in one of the most widely used accessories in the Major Leagues. Now, let's get started.
What Is Pine Tar and What Does It Do?
Pine tar, aka the sticky stuff. In baseball, pine tar is that brownish-black, tacky substance some players decide to put on the handle of their bats to help improve their grip and prevent the bat from flying out of their hands. It also allows players to have a more relaxed grip, which can provide more pop on contact. But, believe it or not, pine tar was not created for baseball.
For centuries before its use in baseball, mariners were using pine tar to help preserve and seal the wood on their vessels. The use of pine tar ensured that these ships lasted the rigors of the water with much more efficiency.
Where Does Pine Tar Come From and How Is It Made?
You guessed it. Pine tar does, in fact, come from pine trees (technically, it comes from the stumps and roots).
The traditional production of creating pine tar is a bit more complicated than one might think. It is formed through the high-temperature carbonization of pine wood. Uh, what? To simplify, pine trees are decomposed through excessive heat application and pressure in a closed atmosphere. Once the pine is fully broken down, the result is pine tar.
Is Pine Tar Illegal In Baseball?
Yes and no. For pitchers, yes. For batters, no. We'll use Major League Baseball's Official Baseball Rules to explain.
According to Rule 3.02(c) (Rule 1.10(c)), "If pine tar extends past the 18-inch limitation, then the umpire, on his own initiative or if alerted by the opposing team, shall order the batter to use a different bat. The batter may use the bat later in the game only if the excess substance is removed. If no objections are raised prior to a bat's use, then a violation of Rule 3.02(c) (Rule 1.10(c)) on that play does not nullify any action or play on the field, and no protests of such play shall be allowed.
According to Rule 3.01 (3.02), "No player shall intentionally discolor or damage the ball by rubbing it with soil, rosin, paraffin, licorice, sand-paper, emery-paper or other foreign substances (such as pine tar)."
According to Rule 8.02(b), "The pitcher may not attach anything to either hand, any finger, or either wrist. The umpire shall determine if such attachment is indeed a foreign substance (i.e., pine tar), but in no case may the pitcher be allowed to pitch with such attachment to his hand, finger or wrist."
How Do I Apply Pine Tar To My Bat?
Here is a step-by-step guide on how to legally apply it to your bat.
To recap, here are the four simple steps you need to follow when putting pine tar on a baseball bat:
- Find a towel, a scoop, and a jar of pine tar.
- Scoop the pine tar out of the jar and apply liberally to the towel. Make sure not get it on anything as it will stain.
- Roll the bat inside of the pine tar soaked towel and make sure to keep it within the 18-inch limitation.
- Wait 24 hours and repeat, if needed.
It's as easy as that. As long as you remember to keep the pine tar within the 18-inch limitation area below the barrel, you should be okay. If you go above that line, you could set yourself up for a George Brett situation. What would an article about pine tar be if it didn't mention the infamous George Brett Pine Tar game that happened on July 24, 1983? For those of you who've never seen or heard of the Pine Tar game, watch this.