Book update No. 21 — Rawlings baseball factory

Remember when I mentioned at the end of my last entry that I had some big book-related news? And do you remember the entry I posted nearly five years ago about how much I’d always dreamt of visiting the Rawlings baseball factory in Costa Rica?

Well, hello from Costa Rica! I visited the factory today. Rawlings has given me permission to share two photos here on my blog. This is the first. It shows the outside of the factory from the parking lot . . .


. . . and this is the second. It shows me stitching a baseball (very slowly and badly, I must admit):


Pretty cool, huh?

I took more than 100 photographs at the factory, but as I mentioned above, these are the only two that I can share for now. I’m going to try to get permission to use some in my book, and then at some point down the road, I’ll try to get permission to share even more on the blog.

Speaking of roads, here are two more photos that I don’t need permission to share. I took them during the two-hour drive from the hotel in San Jose to the factory in Turrialba. This is the first . . .


. . . and this is the second:


That’s not much of a guardrail, but anyway, these photos should give you an idea of what the trip was like — or at least the most rural/scenic parts of it.

Finally, in case you’re wondering, the factory is absolutely-totally-thoroughly NOT open to the public — it’s not even open to media, for the most part — so don’t bother trying to visit. It’s surrounded with barbed wire and guarded 24 hours a day, and I had to show my passport at the entrance. Seriously, it’s no joke. The reason I got to visit is that a) I’m writing a book about baseballs and b) a high-ranking MLB executive gave Rawlings his approval.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to write a monster chapter about it.


UPDATE: The book is called The Baseball, and you can pick up a copy here.


  1. baseballexperiences

    Congrats man, glad you finally had the chance to visit the factory. With the book and all the other stuff going on, I hope this took your mind away for the day and that it was up to your expectations.

  2. zackhample

    Ooh yeah.

    No, I just did the last few stitches. I would’ve liked to stitch a whole ball, but there wasn’t time, and there was already a ball sitting around that was mostly complete. It was just a practice ball, literally meant for new trainees to practice their stitching. They did let me keep it. It’s unstamped. Pretty sweet.

    It didn’t take my mind away from much because I was there for the book, so I was always aware of the huge amount of work that would be awaiting me when I get home.

    Just one full day. I flew here yesterday, and I’m going home tomorrow.

    Thank you. You’re the best.


    Haha… the guy in the guacamole-colored shirt (in the photo where you’re stitching the ball) is sneering at you. He seems to be very intimidated by your ball stitching skills. Aww.

  4. hooksfan

    Thanks for providing the rest of us with something we probably would never get a chance to do in our lifetime. Hopefully Rawlings will give you permission to let us see more of your pics. Waiting for you release of you book next year. Will it be out before Spring Training? Had my second multi-homer game on August 22nd. It happened to come off the same batter. The second one I caught on the bounce after it hit the scoreboard. The first one hit off the fence…I had to negotiate a trash can which really slowed me down and kept me from catching it. What made it even better was it was our youngest son favorite ball player.

  5. padreleigh

    Hey Zack….

    That is just awesome. How special is that? Can’t wait to see more pics. Pick me up a gift at the airport? Oh yeah, don’t drink the water either. Ha ha. Talk to you soon.


  6. zackhample

    “Sneering” might be a bit of an exaggeration, but it sure sounds good. :-)

    You’re welcome. Glad to be able to share this stuff with you and everyone else. The book is going to come out in March, so that’s only half a year away.

    Haha, I got it from the director of Pitch In For Baseball. He knows that I don’t have a favorite team, so as a thank you to me for raising so much money for his organization, he gave me one of those hats. He got a couple from MLB at some point. I wish he had more.

    Your comment officially cracked me up.

    Well, I’d be happy to show you the pics in person some time, but I can’t email them or post them or do anything where they’d be out of my possession. My editor confirmed that I can use several photos from the factory in the book, so now it all depends on Rawlings. At some point in the next few days, I’ll email my best photos to Rawlings and see if I can get approval to use them. Somehow, some way, someday, you’ll see these photos.

    Thanks again.


    Wow. Very, very cool Zack. I’m glad they allowed you to keep the ball – it’ll make another unique addition to your collection. Looking forward to the book. Best of luck getting it all finished (you’re starting to sound a little stressed).

  8. buschstadiumballcollector

    Thats pretty cool, i finally got to stitch a ball after a year of asking the people at busch stadium. But I bet it is compleatly different starting with just the inside. It has definently been awhile scince i posted on here (like 2008) but i havent stoped reading this blog all the time. Also i havent snagged a ball in a year and a half and i have cardinals season tickets. Did you ever get a ball with the needles in the X like at stadiums becuase i may be able to hook you up with one.
    Darron in St.Louis

  9. jskool81

    Cool stuff, as always. Looking forward to reading more about your book’s progress, as well as your other adventures, of course.

  10. zackhample

    The word “stress” doesn’t even begin to describe the state of my life right now. I don’t mean to complain. I know I’m lucky to be writing a book right now, but the book is actually the lest of my concerns at the moment…

    It’s good to hear from you again, and yeah, thanks to my friend Danny in Denver, I do have one of those mostly-stitched balls with the needles still attached. Thanks for the offer, though. I appreciate it, and it’s good to know that you’re still checking out the blog.

    Oh yeah? Nice. Didn’t know that. :-)

    Thanks. I’m just looking forward to having a day off.

    Yup, this is one of the many articles that I unearthed over the course of my research. I’ve decided, though, not to get into the politics of the manufacturing process. I’m just gonna focus on the physical properties of the ball and talk about the amazing techniques that are used to put it all together.

    The Rawlings chapter is supposed to be done by September 13th. Not sure if that’s even possible. There’s so much to say. But in the meantime, I’ll be working on it full-time (and then some).

  11. buschstadiumballcollector

    I think you should ask the Mets if you can borrow their army of Zack Hamples to help you write your book lol. I am looking forward to reading it. Sorry for double posting in this post.


    Zack, hope writing is going well. You going to try and make it to any games in NY before the end of the season?

  13. zackhample

    I’m still alive. Just finished the chapter, or at least the first draft. I still have a little work remaining, but the hardest part is done.

    The army really would’ve come in handy this week. I was totally burned out. Glad you’re looking forward to the book. No need for the apology.

    Definitely, but I’m not sure when…

  14. peter merena

    Hello Zack:

    I understand that Rawlings began to manufacture balls in Costa Rica circa 1987. I know that the true match ball used in the 1984 Olympic Games has HATI imprinted on it. Do you know in what year Rawlings dropped the HAITI imprint from the model RO-C/commemorative (I believe this model is imprinted HAITI) or the model RO-O/THE GAME BALL, e.g., Olympic commemorative or Olympic match and/or souvenir balls? And, was this deletion in parallel with other MLB/other Rawling balls in use/on the market at that time? Thank you, Peter M. Merena, VMOBS Museum of Olympic Baseball, RSVP

  15. Zack Hample

    The word “Haiti” made its last appearance on Major League baseballs that were manufactured during the 1989 season. A few of these balls were still floating around MLB stadium in 1990, and I snagged a few during batting practice. Beyond that, I really don’t know anything about Olympic baseballs. Sorry.

  16. Peter M. Merena

    Thanks Zack:
    To your knowledge, in the 80s did Rawlings manufacture out of the D. Republic (perhaps during the transition period below)? As before, there are “Olympic” balls imprinted HAITI and later, others left blank (assumed C. Rica).BTW, here>< I found this excerpt…"Rawlings has been operating its baseball factory out of Costa Rica since 1988, as it gradually transitioned its factories from the country of Haiti, during its period of government unrest in the late 1980's. Since 1990, Rawlings has produced all of MLB's baseballs in Costa Rica," with its non-professional baseballs manufactured in China.

  17. Gigi

    How very cool! How did you get to visit the factory. Would love to make the trip. Our whole family are baseball freaks:) We would certainly enjoy adding this to a trip to Costa Rica!

  18. Zack Hample

    I got to visit because I was working on a baseball book and met the right people at MLB, who contacted Rawlings on my behalf and set the whole thing up. The factory isn’t open to the public, so unless you have an extraordinary reason to be there and MLB green-lights it, you won’t get to go inside.

  19. Jack marsh

    I went to Turrialba last week to see the volcano and the baseball factory I didn’t see either I asked people in the town where it was but no one seemed to know where it was I wonder why there is such secrecy I live in Costa Rica

  20. merenap

    Hi Zack… 1984 Rawlings RO-O balls imprinted w n wout the word HAITI…..if imprinted without…..that means they were manufactured where? Do you know anyone in the Rawlings “camp” (or elsewhere!!) who might know anything about the 5 types of Rawlings balls (4 souvenir and 1 match) made, assumedly, pre-Olympics, e.g., leading up to LA 1984? Thx, P., VMOBS

  21. Zack Hample

    Hmm, I have no idea why a ball from 1984 would not be stamped with “Haiti.” They were all made there at that time, so I’m thinking maybe it was just a printing/stamping error.

  22. JAckerman

    Hi Zack! I just ordered your book “The Baseball. I live in Greensboro, NC, which I heard is where you went to college. Next month my wife and I are going to Costa Rica next month to visit our son. We are desperate for a tour of the Rawlings factory. Can we talk?

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