Huh-huh, huh-huh.

The week in balls

Published March 25, 2024

Let’s play ball! This week, we decided to take the ball and run with a round-up of ball-related news. Get reading, ball’s in your court now!


Python mating balls are becoming a problem in Florida. Recently, officials from the Conservancy of Southwest Florida found a record-breaking 11 pythons, tangled up in 500 lbs. worth of breeding aggregation–a ball made up of one female and 10 males intertwined until one male hits the mating jackpot.

Whenever officers find them in flagrante delicto, the reptiles are removed from the wild and euthanized. Each polycule caught, ahem, before completion, prevents as many as 100 baby pythons from contributing to an already serious environmental problem. 

Introduced by irresponsible pet owners into a climate perfect for the Southeast Asian natives, the snakes have been messing with Florida’s ecosystem for decades. A 2012 study showed that Burmese pythons in the Everglades have been responsible for a 99.3% decline in raccoons, 98.9% in opossums, and 87.5% in bobcats. (They aren’t venomous, but their huge teeth are dangerous to humans as well). And the situation has only gotten worse since then.

Estimates of the number of Burmese pythons reach up to 300,000, even with the annual Python Challenge awarding prizes for the best cullers. And though it’s always a good policy, staying away from Florida might not be enough: Scientists warn that the invasive species and its freaky mating balls could be spotted further north as the planet warms. 

Conservancy of Southwest Florida photo

… and they hardly ever eject anyone

Robo-umps are now calling balls and strikes for Major League Baseball. For the first time in the history of the majors, if a catcher doesn’t agree with the human umpire’s call, the league can turn to a computerized ball/strike pitch tracking system for a review. 

The Hawk-Eye ball/strike review system went to work at a recent Spring Training prospects tournament that used minor-league rules. In the first game, Baltimore catcher Silas Ardoin didn’t agree that a pitch near the corner of the zone was a ball, as the (human) umpire had called it. The AI review screen showed the ball hit the corner of the strike zone, and the call was overturned.

The system has been used in the minors for a few years, but fans seeing it for the first time this spring were mostly enthusiastic. One Twitter commentator said, “This actually just saved baseball”; another called it a “fun element to add to the game.” A few complaints were related to how long it took for the ball/strike review, but typically it’s just seconds. 

Hawk-Eye technology also powers tennis’s electronic line judge, and the virtual assistant referee in soccer’s English Premier League. There’s no word yet on when the technology might be adopted for regular-season MLB use.

Blueberry Balls 

A huge, heavily rotund, Violet Beauregard-esque ball of a berry has just been awarded the title of world’s heaviest blueberry by the Guinness World Book of Records. Roughly the size of a ping-pong ball, the superfood was picked at Costa farm in Australia, and weighed in at plump 20.4 grams – about the weight of four nickels. That’s some 70 times heavier than a normal-sized blueberry, and 26 percent heavier than the previous (also-Aussie) record holder. 

The champion blueberry is an Eterna varietal, known for its big plump balls ‘o berry. Still, this one was especially large–but “there is absolutely no compromise on quality or flavor,” Costa’s Brad Hocking said in a statement. We suppose that’s what we’d say if we grew it too. 

Still, is anyone else in the mood for pie now?