For every new season of Major League Baseball, more seasoned baseballs are retired after their last pitch. Photographer Don Hamerman took note of this fact and made a habit of picking up old, used baseballs while walking his dog near a baseball diamond in Stamford, Connecticut. The result is an eclectic assortment of baseballs that made its way to his studio where they lay forgotten until Hamerman decided to start photographing them.
Hamerman admits that has not been to a single baseball game in the last decade, but the aesthetics of it matter more to him that the game. In fact, he has not even bothered finding out what baseballs are made of, though that in no way hindered him from appreciating the design and appeal of the ball. “I collected them more for their objectness than the sport,” he tells NPR 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.”
Perhaps the most appealing part of this project is that Hamerman left them untouched save for a few spritzes of water to preserve some live moss, but even that only served to delay the withering process. The artful decay of these objects resemble various shapes such as the map of the Americas for example. In some photos, they look more than jumbled balls of yarn and thread than former baseballs.
Having already exhausted the baseball field near his house, Hamerman now gathers baseballs as he travels. However, there is still one ball that lies half-buried in moss at his local park. “I know right where to find it if I’m ever moved,” he says.
Layer after layer, these balls yield pieces of history as well as varying design aesthetics. Some contained more thread or even dirt to add weight, while others relied on wool, rubber, cork, cowhide, red cotton thread, cotton yarn, rubber cement and wool yarn.