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Lively baseball question; rookies of note

Gates Brown, the Detroit Tigers' hitting coach, is intrigued over the number of tiny blue stars (up to five) that appear under the word Haiti on the official American League baseball. Haiti, of course, refers to where the ball is assembled; the number of stars (Brown thinks) to how tightly the ball has been wound inside before the cover is sewed on.

It is Gates's opinion, and also that of many AL hitters, that the fewer number of dots the more rabbit in the baseball. And a livelier ball means more home runs, extra base hits, and thrills for the fans.

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I recently checked the ball bag in the Los Angeles Dodgers clubhouse and found that a varying number of blue stars also appear on the National League ball.

''I don't know what's happening with today's baseball, but something is obviously going on,'' said outfielder Dusty Baker of the Dodgers. ''Twice this season I've gotten broken-bat home runs on balls that I didn't think were going to clear the infield.''

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