Originally Posted by Dakota
Given the physics of pitching a softball, this is a stupid rule. Is there any such thing as a "spit ball" in fastpitch, even at the highest levels? The size and mass of the ball is just too great for a little saliva to have any material affect, it seems to me.
Well, I certainly can't get into a discussion on the physics part of pitching a softball, but I can tell you there is an advantage to moistening two or three fingers on your pitching hand.
As you all know, when a ball is new, it has a certain "slippery-ness" [is that a word?] to it which is why pitchers usually like to warm up with a new ball on the sidelines in order to wear that surface off a bit and to get some "feel" on the ball. In cold weather conditions, and assuming it is not raining, I found it helped to moisten either my index/middle or middle/ring fingers to throw a pitch. The moisture provided a little sticking action for a short period which allowed for some traction to impart spin on the ball. Also, when playing in dry conditions, either on stone dust or clay/dirt mixed infields, the ball tends to get dusty, and therefore a bit slippery. Again, a bit of moisture helped.
I never was called for licking my fingers, but maybe I played before this specific rule was put in? And if it was, I think it could be pretty easy to circumvent. Lick your first two fingers and wipe your last two, making it look like you're wiping off the ones you licked. Or lick the middle/ring fingers and just apply pressure on the index/pinkie on the wipe off. Advanced pitchers who are used to applying pressure with different fingers on certain pitches would have no problem with this. I don't think umpires' eyes can be that discerning from 40 or 50 feet away.
There may be some that can "load" up a softball, but I never did it nor did I know anyone that did that. So trying to get a ball to do something by adding something to it, be it saliva, mucus, or some hair product is not practical. We wouldn't be hearing "DING!" as much as "SPLAT!" if a pitcher was loading up.