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Finding Beauty In A Baseball, After The Last Pitch

As a new season of Major League Baseball begins, one photographer focuses on baseballs past — that is, baseballs that have lain dormant well after their last pitch.

From Don Hamerman's series <em>Baseballs.</em>
/ Courtesy of Don Hamerman
Courtesy of Don Hamerman
From Don Hamerman's series Baseballs.

For years, photographer Don Hamerman walked his dog near an old baseball diamond in Stamford, Conn. And in all different seasons, in all kinds of weather, Hamerman picked up old baseballs.

He brought them back to his studio, where they sat around for years until he finally decided to start in 2005.

Hamerman, who hasn't been to a ballgame in 10 years, admits that he cares more about aesthetics than history. He says he doesn't even know what baseballs are made of — he just loves the way they look.

"I collected them more for their objectness than the sport," he says over the phone. "Some people have said it reminds them of connecting to their childhood. I just think what appeals to me is what appeals to other people too. They are just cool."

The patterns of decay seem almost artful. One ball bears an uncanny resemblance to a map of North and South America. Another looks ready to be knitted into a scarf. Others sprout moss like tiny terrariums.

And Hamerman doesn't manipulate anything about them — although, he says, he did try to preserve some live moss with a spritz of water, but after a few days it withered away.

He says he has exhausted the field near his house and now collects balls when he travels. But he has his eye on one that's half-buried and growing moss in a local park. "I know right where to find it if I'm ever moved," he says.

(Oh, and as for what balls are made of these days? Official ones by Rawlings are assembled in Costa Rica from cork, rubber, wool yarn, cotton yarn, rubber cement, cowhide and red cotton thread.)

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Coburn Dukehart

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