– Baseball –
The object of the game is to outscore your opponent by putting the baseball into the field of play and advancing to home plate (this can be done multiple ways). The game is played in two teams of 9 players and in 9 innings (NCAA and MLB) or in 7 innings (high school).
The Leagues: Major League Baseball (MLB), Minor League Baseball (MiLB), and independent league baseball, which is blanket term for professional baseball leagues not associated with the first two.
1. Each of a game’s nine innings are separated into half innings units. Both teams will take a playing on the offensive (batting) and defensive (fielding) side of the ball during an inning. You will hear people say it’s the “top” or “bottom” of an inning—they are talking about the first or second half of an inning. The home team will always bat at the bottom of the inning. There are a few a situations where a game will not go the nine innings (it can go shorter or longer depending on the situation):
a. If the home team enters the bottom of the 9th inning with the lead. There’s not need to keep playing because the only thing they can do is add more runs which would keep them in the lead. In this situation, a game will only go 8.5 innings.
b. Weather will cut games short. Five innings is the general rule of thumb for a game to be deemed official and one team to be declared the winner and the other the loser.
c. Tie ball game: if a game is tied after nine innings, another inning of play will be added until the game is no longer tied. Each team will get a chance to bat.
2. Each team’s manager (head coach) turns in a 9-man lineup at the start of the game that details what position each of his 9 guys will be playing and the batting order.
3. Batting—How it’s done
a. A batter is in a battle with the opposing team’s pitcher when they are at the plate. A batter is trying to get a ball into play to get on base before the pitcher can get him to three strikes and get him out.
b. A batter can also get four balls in order to draw a walk to first base (called base on balls). Either of the last two scenarios is good for the batter and generally bad for the pitcher/opposing team.
c. A minimum of three players will take a turn batting (called an at bat) during an inning. Teams will continue to bat through the order until the defensive team can get three outs to end the half-inning.
d. Every batter will have a completely different experience at the plate because they will all have different combinations of strikes and balls.
4. What can happen during an at bat?
a. Strike: when a batter swings at a pitch and misses or when a batter doesn’t swing at a pitch that goes through the strike zone. It takes three strikes to get a batter out.
b. Ball: happens when a ball doesn’t pass through the strike zone. If the batter does not swing at this pitch, the ump calls it a ball. If a batter racks up four balls in an at bat, they walk to 1st base.
c. Foul ball: when a ball is hit outside the foul lines or lands in fair territory but skips past the foul lines before passing first or third base. If it’s a foul fly ball and is caught by a fielder, the batter is called out. If it’s not caught, it’s called a strike. If a batter already has two outs and hits a foul ball it does not count against him, and it can make games last a while because a batter won’t strike out on a foul ball.
d. Foul tip: a pitch that is just barely hit by a batter and goes DIRECTLY into a catcher’s glove—counts as a strike. There’s a lot of confusion with this one usually because some people just call it foul ball. This is completely wrong. A foul ball is a dead ball, and a foul tip is a live ball so runners can advance and be thrown out, and you can strike out on a foul tip.
e. Wild pitch: a pitch that is throw too high, too low, etc. to be caught by a catcher. It is considered a live ball and runners can advance and score on a wild pitch.
f. Get hit by the pitcher: the batter automatically advances to first base—they get walked.
g. Get a hit: the simplest of what can happen, and what a batter actually wants to happen. A hit is when a batter makes contact with the ball sending it into play in fair territory and is able to safely reach a base. There are a few types of hits/ways to score that a batter can come up with on an at bat. For specifics on what to call certain hits go here.
i. Single: when a batter safely reaches first base by hitting a ball into fair territory before a fielder puts him out.
ii. Double: when a batter safely reaches second base by hitting a ball into fair territory before a fielder puts him out.
iii. Triple: when a batter safely reaches third base by hitting a ball into fair territory before a fielder puts him out.
iv. Home run: when a batter comes up with a hit that allows him to completely circle the bases to score. Typically this requires a batter to hit the ball outside the fence but within the foul poles, but on rare occasions inside the park home run (HR that does not leave the field of play).
v. Run Batted In (RBI): when a batter comes up with a hit that allows their team to score to run. That means a batter can get an RBI by hitting a single, double, and triple.
vi. Sac-fly: a batted ball that is hit with less than two outs, is hit to the outfield (fair or foul territory), or is hit to infield (foul territory), is caught by a fielder, and scores a run.
vii. Bunt: when a batter holds the holds the bat in front of the plate and makes light contact without swinging in an effort to make it harder to field and make a play.
viii. Walk-off: a hit (can be any of the ones described above single, double, etc.) or walk that scores a run and ends a game. This happens in a tie game when the home team is taking their last at bat and is able to break the tie.
5. Someone is on base, now what? Now it's time for baserunning.
a. Another batter getting a hit or a home run, allowing base runners time and opportunity to advance to the next base(s)/home plate.
b. Stealing a base, essentially make a break for the next base once the pitcher commits to his pitch.
c. Walk: when a pitcher throws a base on balls, the batter advances to first base, and that action causes the next player or players forward by once base in order to make room or that batter. A guaranteed advance to the next base.
6. Big Defensive plays:
a. Double play: when a team is able to get two outs of the opposing team in one a play.
b. Catching a ball: generally speaking when the fielding team is able to catch the ball after the batter has sent it into play and before it touches the ground, that will result in an out for the offensive team.
c. Tagging a base runner: when a fielder is able to physically tag a base runner on the base path to get them out.
d. Tagging out at the base: when a team is able to get a base runner out by tagging the base where they belong with the ball before they either return to it or are forced out by loaded bases.
e. Striking out a batter: when a batter collects three strikes on a batter, and that batter is called out.
Dimensions of the field: Baseball is tricky because there’s no set dimensions/specifications for the wall that encloses the field of play. This means that every ballpark is a little different. Instead of having standard dimensions for the field, the MLB has minimum distance requirements for the wall—it has to be a minimum of 325 feet from home plate on the right- and left-field foul lines and a minimum of 400 feet from home plate in center field.
Dimensions of the diamond: as a whole there are no standard requirements, but the infield, which is perfectly shaped square, does. The diamond is 90 feet on each side and is marked by painted white lines. A base is placed at each of its four points.
A. Infield: includes the baseball diamond and the circular area that extends just beyond it (dirt that lines the outfield grass line). The distance from the center of the pitcher’s mound to the edge of the infield is 95 feet.
B. Outfield: this is the area that extends from the grass line to the back wall of a baseball field and includes everything inside of the left and right foul poles.
C. Baseline: technically speaking, baselines are not marked at all, but you will hear people refer to the first and third baselines—they are talking about the white lines that extends from home plate to the first and third bases and then go beyond those points to the foul poles to the outfield fence. These are foul lines, but that’s not how you’ll hear them referenced. Anything outside these lines is considered foul territory, and anything inside them is considered fair territory.
D. Base/Running path: These are the white lines that go from 1st base to 2nd base to 3rd base to home plate to mark the path of the runner who is attempting to reach a base safely. Again, you will often hear to these called baselines, but that’s not what they are. Baselines are not marked on a field and only come into play when a defensive player is trying to tag a runner out. If a runner goes more then 3 feet off of the running path, he/she has technically crossed the imaginary baseline that exists and is out.
E. Bases: commonly referred to at “the bags.” Bases are the white squares (and pentagon at home plate) placed on field at the four points of the baseball diamond. Runners score by advancing bases.
F. Foul Poles: these are exactly what their names say they are. They are poles placed at the outfield fence on the first and third baselines to indicate whether a fly ball hit over the fence is fair or foul. If it’s fair, it’s called a home run.
G. Coach’s box: these can be full on white rectangles or three-sided rectangles drawn on in foul territory midway between home plate and first base and home plate and third base. They are the designated places where the offensive team’s first and third base coaches stand during the inning. They often leave this space to signal plays throughout the game which is allowed as long as they don’t interfere with play.
H. Batter’s box: rectangle directly to the left and right of home plate where the batter stands during his at bat. The batter is supposed to keep at least one foot in the batter’s box during their entire at bat unless granted time by the umpire to step out.
I. Catcher’s box: located directly behind home plate and where you will find the catcher and the home plate umpire. He can leave his station at any point to catch a ball or make a play unless a batter is intentionally walked. In that case, the catcher has to keep both feet within the white lines until the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand.
J. Pitcher’s mound: located exactly 60 feet 6 inches from the rear part of home plate and is the area where the pitcher stands to deliver a pitch. It’s a little artificial hill that’s got an 18-foot diameter. The pitcher stands on a pitcher’s rubber that looks pretty similar to a base.
There are 9 positions in baseball. If you want to drop some names (and knowledge) find the top players for each position here.
blow the whistle
With balls flying everywhere and players running up and down the field, it’s hard to figure out what the referees are whistling about. Let’s break it down so we know what to look for on the court.
- Balk: a penalty charged against a pitcher when he’s pretending to pitch when he’s not really planning on pitching. The pitcher deceives base runners and they are awarded a walk to the next base.
- Bench clearing brawl: exactly what you think—a fight so big that literally everyone on the team, including the guys in the dugout get involved.
- Infield fly rule: call made by the umpire when a infield fly ball is still in the air that automatically calls a batter out (whether it is caught or not) to prevent the defensive team from getting a double or triple play by failing to catch a ball (on purpose) that an infielder could catch with ordinary effort.
- Fielding error: when a defensive player makes a mistake when attempting to field a ball that allows a batter or base runner to advance one or more bases or allows an at bat to continue that should have been called out.
- Ejection: the removal of a player or coach from a game whether or not they are in the lineup. The umpire makes this call when serious violations of the game’s rules occur.
Talk that Talk
Uh could you use that in sentence please? Hey I thought I was getting the hang of the sports terminology? You are! But you’re not like a regular sports fan; you’re a cool sports fan. Talk like ESPN sportscasters and talk that talk.
- Full count: when a batter has two strikes and three balls in an at bat, and the next pitch should (barring a foul ball) should determine their at bat.
- Pickle: also referred to as a rundown—it’s a situation in baseball when a base runner is stranded between to bases and fielders toss the ball back in forth in an effort to tag the runner out.
- Beanball: a ball thrown at an opposing player with the intent of causing them harm, typically thrown at the head.
- Bases loaded: when there is a runner on every base.
- Grand slam: a home run made when bases are loaded.
- Batting around the order: when the first batter of an inning makes another plate appearance in that same inning—this means you have gone through all nine batters and circling around another time.
- Extra bases: any hit that is not a single. A player gets extra bases on that hit.
- Fielder’s choice: exactly what it sounds like—a fielding decision that allows a batter to get on base because the defensive team decided to throw out another baserunner.