Learn About Baseball In America

Learn about baseball in America and the basics. Teach someone how to watch and get more enjoyment out of the game.

Have you ever been watching a baseball game with someone who does not know the sport? Can you remember their questions: "What are they doing?", "Why are they doing that?", "What's happening?". Well, here are some simple baseball fundamentals and guidelines that you can use to explain the game of baseball to a beginning fan of America's Favorite Past time.

Do not assume that just because someone was raised in the United States, that they will understand how baseball is played. Even though baseball is played in every state, city, and county of this country, there are still people out there who for one reason or another, have never learned the fundamentals of playing baseball.

The Positions

Baseball is played on a "diamond". The infield which is bordered by home plate, first base, second base, and third base, is actually diamond in shape. In the middle of the infield is the pitcher's mound where the pitcher stands to pitch the ball. The catcher crouches behind home plate and "catches" the pitches that are thrown by the pitcher. First base is covered by the first baseman, second base by the second baseman, and third base by the third baseman. The short stop, who covers the area between second and third base, completes the infield.

The outfield is an arcing shape that extends beyond the infield and is bordered by the first and third baselines. The outfield is covered by a left, center and right fielder (positions are from the batter's perspective when facing the outfield). Ordinarily, the deepest part of the outfield will extend roughly 400 feet from home plate in the major leagues.

Each team will play with nine players at a time. Each of the positions has a number that corresponds to it:

1 Pitcher

2 Catcher

3 First Baseman

4 Second Baseman

5 Third Baseman

6 Short Stop

7 Left Fielder

8 Center Fielder

9 Right Fielder

Playing the Game

A baseball game is played for nine innings. An inning lasts through both teams being at bat through three outs. To start the game, the visiting team will be up at bat first while the home team takes the field. The at bat team will bat in an order determined prior to the start of the game by the team's manager. The manager will attempt to put good lead off batters at the top of the batting order and power, or homerun, hitters in the clean -up positions of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th batters. Generally, the catcher and the pitcher (in the National League) will end the batting order.

The goal of baseball is to score runs. In order to score a run, a batter must safely touch first, second, and third bases and end back at home plate. There are many ways for a batter to get on base:

1. Hit: the batter hits the ball with a bat and makes it safely to base. The types of hits are:

a. Single:The batter makes it safely to first base

b. Double: The batter makes it safely to second base without stopping

c. Triple: The batter makes it safely to third base without stopping

d. Homerun: The batter makes it safely around all bases, back to home without stopping. Traditionally a batter will hit the ball into the stands, through fair territory in order to get a homerun. In the park homeruns can occur with hard to field hits and very fast base runners. Hank Aaron holds the career record for homeruns with 755. Mark McGwire holds the single season homerun record with 70.

e. Grand Slam: When the batter hits a homerun with all the bases occupied by runners (or "loaded"), he has hit a grand slam. Lou Gehrig holds the record for career grand slams with 23.

2. Walk: the batter is pitched four balls, the batter may proceed to first base.

3. Hit by a pitch: the pitcher hits the batter with the ball, the batter may proceed to first base. If the batter intentionally moves into the path of the pitch, it is considered a strike.

4. Error: If a fielder fails to make a play that they should have been able to make (e.g. dropping a routine fly) and the batter makes it safely to base, it is considered an error as opposed to a hit.

It is the goal of the fielding team to make the plays that will get three batters out in each inning. There are many different ways for a fielder to make an out. The most common are:

Tag: The base runner is tagged with the ball on his way to base but is not on the base.

Force: A force out occurs when the runner has a runner on the base behind him. There is always a force out at first for the batter, as that is the batter's only base choice. A runner at second with no one on first does not face a force out since the batter will have the choice of proceeding to third or staying on second. A fielder causes the force by tagging the base that runner needed to advance to.

Fly : A fly out occurs on a fly ball that is caught.

Strikeout: The batter is out with any three of the following: thrown strikes, swung at and missed strikes, or foul balls for strikes one and two.

Double Play: Any two outs that occur during the same at bat.

Missed Tag-up: If a runner fails to tag his base after a fly ball is caught prior to advancing to the next base, he can be tagged out or forced out at his original base.

The Pitching

The pitcher performs what is arguably the most important role in a game. Pitchers control the game's tempo and can be credited with a team's win or loss. The goal of any pitcher is to shut down the opposition and prevent them from scoring any runs. The pitcher pitches balls, strikes, or hit balls. The pitcher tries to pitch the ball into the strike zone, the area over home plate between a batter's knees and mid-chest area. Pitches that fall into the strike zone and are not hit, pitches that are swung-on and missed, or foul balls hit before the batter has two strikes against him, are all counted as strikes. Pitches that fall outside of the strike zone and are not swung-on, are considered balls. Four balls, and the batter walks, three strikes, and the batter is out. The count is the number of balls and strikes each batter has.

A pitcher will have several different pitches that he can throw. The pitcher will want to keep the batter guessing as to what kind of pitch will be coming across the plate next. The more pitches that a pitcher has in his repertoire, the more difficult he will be for batters to read. Some of the different types of pitches are: fastball, curveball, sinking curveball, slider, breaking ball, change-up, forkball, and split-finger fastball.

Just as there are different types of pitches, there are also different types of pitchers who will be called in to pitch at different points in the game. The starting pitcher is the pitcher who begins pitching at the start of the game. A reliever, or mid-reliever, is a pitcher who is brought into the game to replace a struggling pitcher. The closer is a pitcher who is brought in at the end of the game, usually the ninth inning, while his team is ahead, to close the game with a save.

The pitcher has to know where all the base runners are at all times. Base runners will attempt to advance bases through "steals". The pitcher will need to keep the runner on or close to base without balking. A balk occurs when a pitcher makes an illegal maneuver such as throwing to a base after having already started his pitching windup. When a pitcher balks, all base runners are allowed to advance a base.

The Game Ends

The game is over if after nine innings, one team is ahead of the other. If the home team is ahead after 8 1/2 innings, there is no need for them to take their last ups. In case of a tie game, both teams will continue to play complete innings until the score is no longer tied, and both teams have had their turn at bat in the inning.

Baseball can be an exciting game to watch, especially when your team is winning. It can be even more fun when you share your love of the game with a friend who knows a little something about baseball. Batter up!

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