April 7, 2024



They’re having a ball in the Western Canadian Baseball League.

Good thing, too, because baseballs are a vital piece of equipment for the WCBL. You literally cannot play the game without them.

The league, with a dozen teams in Alberta and Saskatchewan, welcomes a new official baseball supplier this year. In November, the WCBL announced it had entered a two-year agreement with Diamond Sports to provide the circuit with its D1-CL LS model – described as the “ultimate baseball” – for the 2024 and 2025 seasons.

“Our deal was up with our previous supplier … and we wanted to make sure that we were getting the best option out there for our baseballs,” said WCBL President Kevin Kvame.

The previous ball that was in circulation was also tossed around in the Canadian College Baseball Conference (CCBC), another league that Kvame presides over.

“It really didn’t stand up. CCBC also used that same baseball and you look at the stats over two years of that use of the baseball and our power stats almost plummeted fifty percent. So, something was wrong. Now, maybe the pitchers thought that was cool,” he said.

At WCBL headquarters in Spitz Stadium in Lethbridge – home of the WCBL’s Bulls – Kvame took notice of a number of baseballs that Torrin Vaselenak launched over the fence last summer. Vaselenak led the league in home runs in 2023 with 12 long balls in 50 games. Kvame suspects the Lethbridge infielder might have been capable of even more homers with a different baseball.

“We certainly don’t want the ball to go flat on one hit and we’ve seen a little bit of that with the previous ball,” noted Kvame.

“We collected a couple of his balls and they, after one hit, were flat on one side. It was kind of funny that he still managed to hit it that far with not a lot of pop coming off the ball for him.”

The WCBL voted by an 11-1 count to do a request for proposal for a new official baseball supplier.

“The one team that voted to keep the baseball had pretty good pitching stats last year, so you might be able to read a little bit into that as to why they thought it wasn’t that bad of a deal,” laughed Kvame.


Enter Diamond Sports, a company that launched in 1977 with a desire to create baseballs that better withstood the abuse dished out by metal bats that were gaining popularity at the time.

“Our goal of producing high-performing, durable baseballs remains the same to this day,” said Jake Gordon, vice-president of marketing and compliance for Diamond Sports.

“Initially, back in the seventies, the company founders tore various baseballs apart and analyzed the components. They then experimented with various raw materials and the preparation of them. Trial and error, through an extensive field-testing process, was a huge and fundamental part of the creation of the original Diamond baseballs.”

Added Gordon: “The reimagining of the seam was also a big deal. Generally, at the time, baseballs had a flat seam, largely due to the baseballs being stitched while the leather was wet. Once dry, the leather would flatten, lowering the seam. Diamond used a different stitching technique, creating a medium, raised seam. The goal was a ‘perfect seam’ – just raised enough to be loved by pitchers, but not so much to cause blisters. Fast forward decades later and the ‘flat’ seam used in the Major Leagues has trickled down to colleges and now even to some high school play.”

Several bids came into the league to become the next official baseball supplier, and the products were put to the test.

The Okotoks Dawgs hosted Oregon State University (OSU) at Seaman Stadium for a fall training camp in September of 2023, and the league sent all the baseballs that were being considered to the world-class baseball facility for exhaustive testing.

“Really, what we’re looking at is how the baseball is built,” said Kvame.

“We test the exit velocity when it’s coming off the bat, and how it feels for the pitchers, and how far it goes and that kind of stuff.”

When the batter’s box dust settled, there were a pair of suppliers that emerged as front runners.

“When we sorted through all the statistics and the analysis of the baseballs, there were two baseballs that stood up that we would be happy with and then it came down to pricing,” said Kvame.


Baseballs are a major investment for the WCBL.

Kvame estimates the league spends between $80,000 and $90,000 annually on stitched orbs, with teams going through close to 12,000 baseballs each year.

“None of these baseballs last in the game that long because we’re away from the days where people bring the ball back for a loonie or a toonie or a candy bag or things like that,” said Kvame, speaking to balls that are lost when they’re fouled out of play, sent over the fence as homers, or signed by players and given away to young fans as souvenirs.

“The number of balls we go through in a game, the longevity of them is … it’s just important that when they’re hit they’re not going to have their shape distorted.”

Kvame recalled the days of one Saskatchewan WCBL team, which has since folded, that was “very protective of their baseballs” and tried to go through only 10 dozen each season.

“They had volunteers at the stadium and heaven forbid you chase a foul ball down. You were bringing it back or they were sending the police after you,” chuckled Kvame.

“That’s commitment, for sure.”

Gordon said the WCBL has been on the radar of Diamond Sports for several years and when the chance to work with the league came up, they pounced at the opportunity.

“We’ve been aware of the WCBL for quite some time, being one of the longest running and most successful adult leagues in the country. When we were contacted by the WCBL, we were thrilled to hear there was an opportunity to become the official ball of the league,” said Gordon.

“We worked in conjunction with the WCBL to make sure we delivered the right ball – we started by offering a few recommendations, and the WCBL put multiple models through rigorous field testing to determine the appropriate model.”


There is some secrecy around the process of making and delivering baseballs, concedes Gordon, including exact production figures and the process that goes into creating the sport’s most important piece of equipment.

“Our manufacturing details are protected proprietary information, sorry,” said Gordon.

“Our goal is to produce baseballs that will perform well in the game and last in the practice bucket.”

But Gordon is happy to discuss the D1-CL LS model that emerged as the WCBL’s new official baseball.

“It’s a ‘low seam’ ball that features a cushioned cork center, white virgin wool windings, and an ultra-premium, full-grain leather cover. While we wouldn’t consider it to be necessarily ‘pitcher or hitter friendly,’ everyone has their own opinion on the low seam, which has been the new standard for college balls in the states for nearly a decade,” said Gordon.

He fully expects the D1-CL LS model to withstand the temperature and humidity variations that ballparks in Western Canada present.

“While extreme weather conditions can affect many things, including baseball performance, we believe our baseballs will hold up great in the Canadian climate during gameplay,” said Gordon, adding Diamond Sports recommends that baseballs be stored in climate-controlled areas before they’re used in games.

Pitchers, hitters and coaches have their own preferences when it comes to the baseballs they use.


“What I look for in a baseball isn’t anything super-specific, except for the seams and the rub a baseball has on it. The higher the seams are, the better command I have of my off-speed, but most baseballs in college baseball have little seams that are flush,” said southpaw Matt Whitney of the Fort McMurray Giants.

The Florida product – who went 2-1 with a 1.69 earned run average (ERA) for the Giants through 26-plus innings in 2023 – said the grip is key.

“The lack of shine on a baseball is something I look for, as I can get to a grip easier than if the baseball had just been opened out of the wrapper,” said Whitney.

Jaxon Zanolli, a lefty pitcher with Sylvan Lake Gulls, is a fan of “firm laces” and a ball that has a “non-slick feel” to it.

Durability is key for Eric Marriott, the head coach of the Moose Jaw Miller Express.

“Sustainability and durability,” said Marriott. “A baseball with loose seams that is constantly having to be tossed from being a ‘gamer’ is no good to anyone.”

For slugger Ryan Dauphinee, a shortstop with the Weyburn Beavers who took part in the 2023 WCBL All-Star Game & Home Run Derby, his outlook is a bit different from those who take the mound.

“I am not a pitcher, so the seaming and grip have never been an issue. What I do find a lot in baseball is balls will quickly be dented or deformed after only being in play for a couple at bats,” said Dauphinee.

“You can definitely tell the differences in quality right away when you hold a baseball. I’d say what I look for is a quality baseball that can withstand the sport for a decent duration, that would be my first priority.”

Veteran starting pitcher Graham Brunner of the Okotoks Dawgs seeks a “non-high seamed ball that doesn’t have much cushion,” and notes that how the baseballs are rubbed up is also important.

Rubbing mud is applied to baseballs before they’re used in games, resulting in less gloss and a firmer grip for pitchers.

“Baseballs are slick when they are in the box. Some of the cowhide is better and takes the mud better,” explains Dave Robb, the hitting/bench coach with the Okotoks Dawgs and an assistant coach at Mesa Community College.

“Umpires usually rub up balls before games. If they use the right mud, the balls will be better prepared. The ball last year was inferior leather and some were actually lopsided. Better cowhide means the mud works better and the ball has better grip … the better the grip the longer the pitcher’s fingers stay on the ball, and the greater the spin or more movement on the pitch.”

Added Robb: “We’re looking for a cushioned-cork centre that is livelier than last year. I know the pitchers like the ‘dead ball’ but it changes the game. Better center, better flight.”

Robb’s colleague, Joe Sergent, is less inclined to ponder the calibre of baseballs in use.

“If I am thinking about the ball and the stitches or what model it is, then I am not thinking of throwing strikes and getting guys out.  Just give me the ball,” said the pitching coach for the Okotoks Dawgs, a former pro pitcher who still takes the mound for the Calgary Diamondbacks in the Foothills Major Baseball Association.

Kvame is eager to see the new baseballs in action this summer.

“A baseball is a baseball is a baseball to the fans, but it will have a new name on it and we’re quite excited about it,” said the WCBL president.

“Hopefully we’re going to treat the fans to more home runs, more doubles, more triples and harder hits. We’re happy with this baseball that we’re going to showcase this year.”

If all goes well, the new baseballs will provide a gripping experience for WCBL fans.



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