Occasionally, when lacrosse players pick up a ball from the practice bucket and throw around, they say, “Ah, it’s a greaser,” and toss it away with a look of disgust. If you’re new to the sport, you likely have no idea what the term “greaser” means in lacrosse.
Lacrosse players use the term greaser to describe a slick, shiny ball that has lost almost all of the textured grip on its surface. Relative to a regular lacrosse ball, greasers throw noticeably higher because the pocket is unable to grip the ball properly. This causes players to throw inaccurately.
You can see why lacrosse players generally have a negative reaction when they unintentionally pick up a greaser. After analyzing how to immediately tell a regular lacrosse ball from a greaser, we will explore whether or not it is possible to “degrease” a lacrosse ball and if there are lacrosse balls for sale that are grease resistant.
The Meaning of Greaser in Lacrosse
In the real world, greaser is more commonly used as an Outsiders reference more than anything else. In lacrosse, greaser has a far different meaning.
The term is used to describe lacrosse balls that aren’t up to par for live gameplay. Players refuse to play with greasers because they are rarely ever used in game. Game balls are newer and still retain a textured grip on its surface. Greasers, on the other hand, do not.
This is actually where the term greaser originates from. Grease is slick and oily, which perfectly represents these mediocre lacrosse balls. Sometimes, greasers are also called shiners because of their glossy surface.
It is important to note that all regular lacrosse balls eventually become greasers over time. Greasers do not start out as greasers. Standard lacrosse balls simply devolve into greasers with long term wear and tear. There is no definitive point on the timeline that marks when a ball transitions into a greaser. It is a generic term that is largely subjective.
In theory, greasers can be viewed on a sliding scale. Lacrosse balls that are just starting to lose their grip are “a little greasy” whereas lacrosse balls that have completely lost their grip are “full on greasers.” Obviously, this isn’t an exact science by any means, but it’s helpful to put things into perspective.
Summarizing the Defining Characteristics of a Greaser
I condensed some of the points above into an easy to follow bulleted list to quickly identify a greaser from a regular lacrosse ball.
- Has a noticeable sheen on the surface of the ball
- Loss of textured grip all along the ball surface
- Typically looks older and dirtier than your average lacrosse ball
- Prominent discolorations
- Noticeably harder than your average lacrosse ball
- Passes and shoots notably higher than a regular lacrosse ball
Image of What a Greaser Looks Like
I know mentally visualizing what a greaser looks like from words alone can be difficult, so I provided the image below for your reference.
How to Tell a Greaser From a Regular Lacrosse Ball
Eventually, you will develop a feel for identifying greasers from game ready lacrosse balls merely by looking at them. But when you’re first starting out, it can be hard to differentiate between the two.
Methods of Distinguishing Greasers from Normal Lacrosse Balls
One method of discriminating greasers from non-greasers is to run your thumb along the surface of the ball. Fresh lacrosse balls have a signature grippy feel to them. Your thumb will not be able to quickly slide along the ball.
There is a stark contrast when you trace your thumb along a greaser. With a greaser, your thumb glides along the surface of the ball with little resistance whatsoever. When you compare and contrast the feel of a greaser versus a non-greaser using this method, you will detect a noticeable difference.
In addition, you can also toss the ball around and test whether your passes are throwing higher than usual. Prior to doing this, I would make sure that there are no flaws in your throwing motion or your lacrosse pocket. Sometimes, these variables are to blame rather than the grip of the ball.
Once you have checked that your technique and gear are up to speed, throw a couple of passes at one specific target. You can do this by tossing around with a teammate if they’re available. If you’re by yourself, play some wall ball. Whatever method you choose, be sure to keep the target consistent.
From here, throw a couple of passes with the ball you want to test out. If your passes are frequently sailing over your intended target after fifteen to twenty passes, the ball is more than likely a greaser.
To double check, you can throw around with a newer lacrosse ball and compare where the ball ends up. Generally, newer lacrosse balls will throw a tad lower than used lacrosse balls because it still has all of its original grip preserved. But if a ball is consistently throwing more than half a foot above where the newer lacrosse ball is throwing, it is safe to say that the ball is a greaser. That is, of course, if your technique and pocket are prime.
Appearance of a Greaser versus a Non-Greaser
Earlier, I mentioned that most lacrosse players could tell a greaser from a normal lacrosse ball just by looking at them. The characteristic physical features of a greaser are relatively easy to pick out, especially when pitted against a newer lacrosse ball.
To see what I mean, take a gander at the images below.
The picture on the left is a lacrosse ball that I’ve been playing with for years. Needless to say, it’s definitely past its prime. Believe it or not, the ball was originally white. Now, the ball has adopted darker discolorations as the original grip of the ball has worn off. It definitely looks older, like it has seen its fair share of muddy fields and rainy days (which it has).
From all of these observable details, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that the ball on the left is a greaser. This is especially apparent when you compare it to the ball on the right.
The ball on the right is relatively newer, though it has been used somewhat. There is not much discoloration at all. You can still tell that the ball is white as opposed to the greaser on the left. Not to mention that the ball lacks the definitive sheen that is indicative of a greaser.
You may be wondering why the ball on the left lacks this signature sheen. The reason is that this is an extreme case of a greaser.
I actually lost this ball out in my backyard and it sat in the sun for the entire summer. As a result, the combination of the UV rays destroying the original grip on the ball and the mud stains infused into its surface have covered up the shine.
Nonetheless, one trace with your thumb along the ball surface and you’ll find that it essentially has zero grip.
How a Regular Lacrosse Ball Becomes a Greaser
All of this talk about greasers begs the question, “How do lacrosse balls even devolve into greasers?”
The answer to this question lies with the materials used to produce lacrosse balls. The main ingredient in lacrosse balls is vulcanized rubber. This vulcanized rubber is infused with oils and plasticizers to soften the material.
Eventually, the oils and plasticizers separate out and rise to the surface of the ball. Once these oils and plasticizers reach the surface, they harden over time and generate the slippery texture that greasers are known for (source). Exposure to UV rays from sunlight accelerates this process by hardening the oils and plasticizers at a much faster rate.
In addition to all this chemistry, general wear and tear also contribute to the slickness of greasers. The more physical abuse that a lacrosse ball undergoes, the faster that the original grip of the ball will corrode, exposing the oils and plasticizers underneath.
Ways that Greasers Negatively Affect Player Performance
As aforementioned, greasers throw notably higher than your average lacrosse ball. If a greaser somehow sneaks its way into a game or practice, all of the players out on the field will find that their shooting and passing is off. Initially, they may blame themselves or their stick, but after further analysis they will discover that their poor accuracy can be attributed to the game ball.
It is important to note that these are merely short term effects on player performance. There are players out there that unknowingly play with greasers every time they train. Although they may be completely unaware of it, this can have significant repercussions on performance during real games.
For one, the players that do this grow used to passing and shooting with greasers. They steadily adjust their throwing motion to accommodate for the higher release of the ball. Consequently, their passing and shooting is more in tune with greasers than with normal lacrosse balls.
This is not an ideal situation at all. Lacrosse games and practices are not played with greasers, they’re typically played with newer lacrosse balls. Thus, players that train with greasers on a consistent basis will find that their passes and shots throw lower than they’re used to when game time rolls around.
This is a direct consequence of the added grip of newer lacrosse balls. These newer lacrosse balls remain in the pocket for longer during the throwing motion. As a result, the physical release of the ball is delayed, resulting in the ball being whipped toward the ground rather than at the intended target.
All of offensive strategy is based around the players’ capacity to pass and shoot with precision. If a player lacks these fundamental skills, they will be a liability out on the field. Teams simply cannot afford to have unforced turnovers at the higher competitive tiers.
Put simply, the long term repercussions of practicing with greasers are more serious than you think. Greasers can mess with your throwing mechanics and cost you playing time on the field. The main takeaway here is to avoid practicing with greasers wherever possible.
Is It Possible to “Degrease” a Lacrosse Ball?
After hearing about the dire consequences of practicing with greasers, you likely want to figure out a way to “degrease” some old lacrosse balls. After all, lacrosse balls don’t come cheap. Luckily, there are some methods to revitalize greasers back to their former glory.
Earlier, we discussed that it’s not the whole ball that is greasy, it’s only the hardened oils and plasticizers that lie on the surface of the ball itself. Following this line of thinking, if this slick, hardened film was removed, then the ball would theoretically be as good as new.
Many lacrosse players have experimented with this idea and come up with some whacky solutions for degreasing old lacrosse balls.
With this method, the only things you need are an old tennis ball canister and some sandpaper.
The premise behind this method is that the textured surface of the sandpaper can be utilized to remove the thin film of oils and plasticizers all around the ball. Rather than manually shearing off the top of the ball with your hands, the sandpaper can be layered on the inside of the tennis ball canister.
From here, you can throw in a lacrosse ball or two, cap the canister, shake the tube for awhile, and have a couple of high quality lacrosse balls at your disposal.
This method is somewhat effective, but it still has its drawbacks. It can be tedious having to shake the tube for five minutes to refurbish one or two balls at a time. Not to mention there’s no guarantee that the greasers will be revived.
If you’re looking for an easy, foolproof way to degrease your lacrosse balls, there are products out there dedicated to this sole purpose. They work much in the same way by scraping off the slick film off the ball, but they’re specially manufactured to suit this function.
Are There Lacrosse Balls For Sale that Don’t Get Greasy?
Lastly, we will discuss the notion of whether there are lacrosse balls out there that are “grease resistant.”
As of late, there have been several innovations in the realm of lacrosse balls. Companies are starting to recognize the problem that greasers pose and are doing their best to address the problem. This has led to several types of lacrosse balls that are beginning to take the lacrosse community by storm.
The forerunner in the lacrosse ball industry that I believe will revolutionize the way lacrosse balls are made is the Pearl X lacrosse ball, made by Guardian. These textured lacrosse balls are made from completely different ingredients than traditional lacrosse balls. Instead of vulcanized rubber, they are constructed from “advanced elastomeric material” (source). Guardian claims that this difference in the manufacturing process makes the ball greaseless.
What is exciting about Guardian is that they base their production process on twenty years of material science and engineering experience. This company didn’t start out as a ragtag group of lacrosse players. Guardian is comprised of real engineers that know how to manufacture top of the line products. They just so happened to commit their brains to the lacrosse industry (source).
It seems hard to believe, but the lacrosse community is starting to buy into it. In fact, the Pearl by Guardian was recently named the official ball of US lacrosse (source). This is a considerable milestone and has helped to provide Guardian with enough traction to spread their groundbreaking product to the whole lacrosse community.
Other reputable lacrosse companies are following suit. One of the industry leaders, East Coast Dyes, released their own version of the greaseless lacrosse ball called ECD Mint. Although this ball is branded as the ECD Mint, Guardian actually works with East Coast Dyes to manufacture these balls. Since East Coast Dyes is such a big name in lacrosse, this provides people with yet another reason to drift away from the traditional lacrosse ball towards newer, advanced products.
As far as whether or not these balls actually do what they claim to do, I am a believer. Obviously, US lacrosse wholeheartedly believes in the Pearl as well, which is extremely encouraging. However, I have yet to see a thorough case study of the Pearl versus other lacrosse balls. I might actually take it upon myself to conduct an actual study concerning this topic in the future.
Greasers are without a doubt a frustrating part of lacrosse. However, the future looks bright for all the new innovations that are coming out to eradicate this plague from lacrosse forever. Until then, stay away from greasers! Trust me, your performance on the field will thank you for it later.