All religions, arts, and sciences are branches of the same tree.
Baseball is like a religion to me, one that combines ineffable artistry and infallible science in a single medium. My days as a ballplayer were some of the best times of my life and those memories will never leave me. The reminiscences are still so vibrant to me: I can recall the smell of the freshly-shorn field and hot dogs, the sound of the ball smacking into the catcher’s mitt and the gruff voices of vendors, the brilliant white of the foul lines receding into cheerful yellow of the foul poles. And the feelings: the cinch of the belt around my waist, my cap snug around my temple, and the reassuring heft of the rosin bag in my palm.
The rosin bag is one of the few foreign objects permitted to remain on the field during play. You’ll see it perched on the back of the mound, perpetually within the reach of hurlers. Pitchers like me use it to enhance their grip on the ball. The powder provides the proper balance of dryness and tackiness that is essential for the pitcher to feel comfortable with his release. Every pitcher has his or her idea of the ideal combination of slickness and friction; the amount of rosin assists in calibrating the touch.
Like so many of the implements of baseball, rosin has its origins in the pine tree. In fact, rosin does carry the distinctive tang of conifers. Just as maple syrup is tapped, resin from pine trees is collected. Resins from different types of trees are collected, and each manufacturer has its own secret combinations.
The sap is then distilled into turpentine, the volatile solvent, and rosin. Rosin is processed differently for its varied uses. For luthiers, rosin is mixed with beeswax and particles of precious metals to alter the tone of their musical instruments. Baseball rosin bags have humbler companions such as cornstarch or talc.
Another name for rosin is “colophon,” from the Ionian city of the same name which was once known as the primarily as the exporter of the substance. The meaning of colophon evolved to be associated with printing and books, probably because of the use of rosin as a fixative for inks. The word now refers to the back matter of publications which describes the typeface and any other production details of a book but also is the name for any publishing house’s trademark. RoSIN, an abbreviation of RetroSheet Intraplay Notation, is a subset of the language created to power RetroSheet and is attempting to be the standard syntax for describing baseball plays electronically.
Words and baseball, like the interplay between pitcher and catcher--always passing meanings and ideas between each other, semaphorically and metaphorically.