Sorry, baseball players, you'll have to ditch your wedding rings.
During the first inning of the Cincinnati Reds' game against the Milwaukee Brewers on June 18, umpires demanded that Reds pitcher Graham Ashcraft remove the silicone wedding band he was wearing under his glove. Via publicly available footage, Ashcraft is shown being confused and incredulous about the order, as pitchers often wear their traditional wedding bands or replacement silicone bands for comfort.
Umpires were enforcing a long-held Major League Baseball rule that pitchers can't have anything attached to their fingers or hands, including "Band-Aid, tape, Super Glue, bracelet," the rule says. The point is to remove places where pitchers can hide substances that could be used to alter a ball's movement.
Over the years, MLB umpires largely have looked away while players have worn their wedding band. When Ashcraft asked about this, umpires told him that they collectively began enforcing the rule beginning on June 19.
"The first base umpire comes up, checks my right hand as normal," Ashcraft told reporters after the game. "Then he asks me to take my glove off and saw my ring. He goes, 'You have to take your ring off.' I was like, ’No, why do I have to take my ring off? I shouldn’t have to.' Then apparently it’s some new rule they came up with yesterday."
Reds manager David Bell said that he'd received a memo about the stricter enforcement last week.
"I hadn't read it super close, so as soon as Graham came off the field, we went and double-checked and there is a rule. They just reminded us recently," Bell said.
Umpires gave Ashcraft only a warning, not disciplinary action. The pitcher then wore his band on a chain around his neck.
"'Stick' can stick to everything," Ashcraft said afterward, referring to slang for substances that pitchers have used to doctor baseballs.
Graham Ashcraft was asked by the ump to take his wedding band…off his glove hand… pic.twitter.com/vSPUpURRq5— ATBBTTR (@ATBBTTR) June 18, 2022
Pitchers have used pine tar, rosin, sunscreen and other sticky, tacky, foreign substances to spin the ball, Andy Andres, a lecturer at Boston University and a baseball analytics expert, explained in a 2021 video. That year, MLB umpires began enforcing the no-stick rule a bit more, ejecting pitchers from games, especially in cases where it was obvious that a pitcher had a substance on him.
But even then, tacky substances were quietly promoted and approved both in the clubhouse and on the field, as long as you didn't get caught.
From a 2021 article by The Ringer:
Instead, the league has skated by in a delicate state of détente, tacitly allowing limited grip enhancement with the understanding that if Michael Pineda showed up to pitch with a 5-inch pine tar booger on his neck, he’d get dinged. But in recent years, baseball has come to reflect a society that’s embraced Yunick’s Law: “If you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’.” Just as a bombshell report on billionaires’ tax avoidance was received with mostly cynical hand-waving, baseball teams have bent and broken the rules with reckless abandon, as frequently lauded for their ingenuity as they were denounced for their perfidy.Ashcraft was not found to be using a foreign substance on his pitches in the June 18 game, which the Reds lost to the Brewers 7-3 at Great American Ball Park.
The Cincinnati Reds are now 23-43 for the 2022 season, good for last place in the National League and among the bottom three in the entire league. The Reds are off on June 20 and will host the Los Angeles Dodgers (40-25) in Cincinnati June 21-23 before heading to San Francisco for a dance with the Giants.