Why Do Pitchers Lick Their Fingers?

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Pitchers are always looking out for a way or two to stay ahead of the game and gain an advantage over their opponents. If you’re a baseball fan then you might have noticed while watching a Major League Baseball game that the pitchers do certain things like licking their fingers which most times leaves a lot of people battling. Pitchers have a reason for practically all their moves and behaviors on the field. If you’re wondering why pitchers lick their fingers, then you’re at the right place. Below, we will be talking about the reasons pitchers lick their fingers and every other thing you should know about it.

Why Do Pitchers Lick Their Fingers?

Why Do Pitchers Lick Their Fingers?

Pitchers lick their fingers to sufficiently hydrate them to have an improved grip on the ball. With a minimal amount of spit, the pores in your fingertips and palm close up thus bettering your grip on the ball. On cold or rainy days, the pores of your skin open when you’re outside playing and this wouldn’t give you the tight grip you need so licking your fingers helps pitchers in this situation. Aside from licking their fingers, pitchers also lick their hands. Rules are supporting the licking of fingers by pitchers but the rules state that the pitcher should dry the licked fingers on their uniform before gripping the ball to avoid throwing a “spitball”.

The Function of Spit In Pitching

Spit helps in pitching, throwing a baseball isn’t as easy as merely throwing a ball from one point to another, and the longer the game goes on, the more fatigue and conditions start to affect the pitcher’s performance. Coupled with the fact that the stakes are much more elevated midway through the game, every pitch matters, and the pitcher can’t afford to be affected by anything, including friction. This is why pitchers lick their fingers to gain some moisture after wiping the excess moisture off before coming in contact with the ball to minimize friction. Also, while playing, players’ hands are usually covered in dirt and sweat, and wiping them off before licking provides a clean surface area around the fingertips region thus creating a smooth surface for the moisture to increase the dexterity and grip of the pitcher. Overall, the spit aids the pitcher in throwing the baseball with speed and accuracy.

The Reasons For Doctoring A Baseball

Baseball pitchers are known to use their saliva to doctor the baseball and this makes the trajectory of the ball difficult to predict. Spitting on the baseball is one of the means baseball players have adopted to have the upper hand over their opponents. Doctoring the ball with spit makes the pitch more difficult to hit. Asides from using saliva to doctor the baseball, baseball players also use mucus and petroleum jelly. Usually, when throwing the ball, the pitcher’s finger makes it easy for the ball to spin as he releases it but when a pitcher doctor the ball or applies saliva to his fingers, the ball easily slips off the fingers with little to no spin. You should know that doctoring has been banned in baseball a very long time ago.

Rules On Spitting On The Ball And Fingers

While a lot of pitchers used to do this during the early years of the game, it’s now outlawed. In baseball, pitchers are prohibited from spitting on the baseball before throwing it. As soon as spitting on balls was banned, a lot of pitchers started using pine tar instead. This sticky substance provides them with a much more improved grip on the ball. Over the years, pitchers have also used sweat as a lubricant instead of sweat. But with time rules get stricter with using all sorts of things as lubricants. So at the moment It’s not only spitting that’s illegal to wipe on the baseball, wiping petroleum jelly, sweat, pine tar, and even mucus is illegal. Such that if a pitcher wipes sweat off with his hand, he can’t grab the baseball without wiping the sweat from his hand using a towel. Generally, pitchers aren’t allowed to put any foreign substance directly on the ball. As a pitcher you’re only allowed to rub your ball between your bare hands, you can’t rub it on other body parts, gloves, or clothes. You also aren’t allowed to spit on the ball, hand, or even gloves.


Pitchers face a variety of conditions and physical tolls and are always looking for solutions to help throw strikes precisely and consistently. As minimal as licking fingers can be, it helps pitchers a lot. When pitchers lick their fingers it provides them with enough moisture to have a better grip on the ball. The licking of fingers is particularly helpful when the hands are dry and during the cold. So when you see a pitcher licking his fingers while watching a game, you should know he’s not being weird, he just needs a little moisture.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there rules regarding the application of sunscreen by baseball pitchers?

Yes, there are rules regarding the use of sunscreen by pitchers. Applying sunscreen as a pitcher is legally accepted but it becomes illegal if you rub the rosin bag on your forearm with sunscreen on it so you can apply it to your hands.

Do Pitchers Lick Their Fingers Because It’s Dry?

Yes, it’s one of the reasons why they lick their fingers. Dry hands lack the friction pitchers need to throw the ball and are very stiff so they require warmth and moisture to get them back on track all of this the spit provides the pitchers the needed friction and warmth

Can A Pitcher Wear Thin Gloves On Throwing Hands?

Yes, if the pitcher desires as they’re banned from wearing them on their throwing hands. Given the precision and speed pitchers need for throwing balls, the type of gloves a pitcher is wearing is important as it can affect the speed and accuracy. So make sure your throwing hand is in the most suitable kind of glove it can be.

Why Do Pitchers Lick Their Fingers?
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