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Home » Sports

Baseball

Baseball is sometimes called hardball to distinguish it from the closely related sport of softball and other similar games. In the United States, baseball has often been called the national pastime, and the total attendance for Major League games is more than that of all other American professional sports combined.

In Japan, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and quite a lot of other countries, baseball is the most popular sport by any measurement. Among American television viewers, however, it has been surpassed in attractiveness by American football and, in the south, car racing. Although the three most popular team sports in North America are ball games (baseball, basketball and American football), baseball's popularity was once so great that the word "ballgame" in the United States specifically refers to a game of baseball.

Gameplay:

General structure:

A General structured Baseball is played between two teams of nine players each on a baseball field, usually under the authority of one or more officials, called umpires. There are usually four umpires in major league games; up to six may manage depending on the league and the importance of the game. The field is divided into two main sections: the infield contains the four bases, and beyond two adjacent sides of the diamond there is an outfield. The other two sides of the diamond form the start of the foul lines, which make bigger straight, and form the boundary in the outfield as well. Numbered counter-clockwise, first, second and third bases are 15-inch (38 cm) squares, which stick up from the ground; together with home base, the fourth base, they form a square with sides of 90 feet (27.4 meters) called the diamond. Home base is a pentagonal plate, known as home plate.

The game is played in nine innings in which each team gets one turn to bat and try to score runs while the other pitches and defends in the field. The teams switch every time the defending team gets three players of the batting team out. The winner is the team with the most runs after nine innings. At the start of the game, all nine players of the home team play the field, while players on the visiting team come to bat one at a time.

The basic contest is always between the pitcher for the fielding team, and a batter. The pitcher throws, pitches, the ball towards home plate, where the catcher for the fielding team waits to receive it. The batter stands in one of the batter's boxes and tries to hit the ball with a bat. The catcher's job is to catch any ball that the batter misses or does not swing at. Each of these pitches begins a new play, some of which contain no more action than the pitch itself.

Each inning, the goal of the defending team is to get three members of the other team out. A player who is out must temporarily leave the field and await for his turn to bat to arrive again, thus he cannot produce any more wrongdoing until then. There are many ways to get batters and baserunners out; some of the most common are catching a batted ball in the air (a fly out), tag outs, force outs, and strikeouts. After the fielding team has put out three of the batting team's players, the half-inning is over and the team in the field and the team at bat switch places.

The goal of the team at bat is to score runs; a player may do so only by batting, then becoming a base runner, touching all the bases in order and finally touching home plate. To that end, the goal of each batter is to enable baserunners to score or become a baserunner himself. The batter attempts to punch the ball into pale territory—between the foul lines—in such a way that the defending players cannot get him or the baserunners out. In general, the pitcher attempts to prevent this by pitching the ball in such a way that the batter cannot hit it cleanly.

A baserunner who successfully touches home plate after touching all previous bases in order scores a run. In an enclosed field, a fair ball hit over the fence on the fly is normally an automatic home run, which entitles the batter and all runners to touch all the bases and score.


Fielding team

The team in the field is the defensive team; they attempt to prevent the team at bat from scoring. The fielding team has a pitcher, who stands on the mound, and a catcher, who squats behind home plate. This pair is often called the battery. The remaining seven fielders may be positioned anywhere in fair territory, but the standard defensive alignment places four infielders at the edge of the infield and three outfielders in the outfield.

The pitcher's main role is to pitch the ball toward home plate with the goal of getting the batter out. Pitchers also play defense by fielding batted balls, covering bases (for a potential tag out or force out on an approaching runner), or backing up throws. The catcher's main role is to receive the pitch if the batter does not hit it. Together with the pitcher and coaches, the catcher plots game strategy by suggesting different pitches and by shifting the starting positions of the other fielders. Catchers are also in charge for defense in the area near home plate.

The four infielders are the first baseman, second baseman, shortstop, and third baseman. The first and third basemen play near their respective bases. The second baseman and the shortstop position themselves in the gaps on either side of second base, toward first and third base, respectively. Originally, the second baseman played very close to second base; this positioning shifted when the shortstop was developed by relocating what was previously a fourth outfielder.

The first baseman's job consists largely of making force plays at first base on ground balls hit to the other infielders. The first baseman also fields balls hit near first base, but because the position is less demanding than the others, the team's strongest hitter is often also their first baseman. The second baseman covers the area to the right of second base and provides backup for the first baseman. The shortstop fills the critical gap between second and third bases—where right-handed batters generally strike ground balls—and also covers second or third base and the near part of left field. This position is the most challenging defensively, so a good shortstop need not necessarily be a good batter. The third baseman's primary requirement is a strong throwing arm, in order to make the long throw across the infield to the first baseman. Quick reaction time is also important for third basemen, as they tend to see more sharply hit balls than the other infielders.

The three outfielders are called the left fielder, the center fielder, and the right fielder, the positions being named from the catcher's perspective. The center fielder has more territory to cover than the corner outfielders, so this player must be quick and agile with a strong arm to throw balls in to the infield; as with the shortstop, teams tend to highlight defense at this position. Also, the center fielder is considered the outfield leader, and left- and right-fielders should cede to his direction when fielding fly balls.

The locations of the fielders are not specified by the rules. Players often shift their positioning in response to specific batters or game situtations, and they may exchange positions with one another at any time.


Pitching

Effective pitching is vitally important to a baseball team, as pitching is the key for the defensive team to retiring batters and runners to hold the other team at bay. A full game usually involves over one hundred pitches thrown by each team, and most pitchers begin to tire before they reach this point. Multiple pitchers are often needed in a single game, including the starting pitcher and members of the bullpen (an area where pitchers warm up before they play). Pitchers are substituted for one another like any other player (see below), and the rules do not limit the number of pitchers that can be used in a game. The pitcher's weapons are their variation of pitches, the three variables being accuracy, velocity, and movement. Most pitchers attempt to master two or more pitches.

The pitcher must keep one foot in contact with the top or side of the pitcher's rubber (which is on top of the mound) during the entire pitch, so he cannot take more than one step forward in delivering the ball. Nevertheless, the average major-league pitcher can throw the ball up to ninety miles per hour (145 km/h). The act of throwing a baseball overhand at high speed is unnatural to the body and somewhat damaging to human muscles—pitchers are very liable to injuries and soreness, so baseball teams always have several pitchers.


Team at bat

The ultimate goal of the team at bat is to score runs. The team at bat sends its nine players up to home plate as batters in an order called a lineup. Each team sets its batting lineup at the beginning of the game and may not change the order, except by sending in substitute players. A substitute player fills the same spot in the order as the player he replaced; however, he is not required to play the same position in the field. After the ninth player has batted, the order returns to the beginning with the first player in the lineup. Batting out of turn is not allowed. Once a runner reaches home plate, they score a run and are no longer a base runner. They must leave the playing area until their spot in the order comes up again. A runner may only circle the bases once per plate appearance and thus can score no more than a single run.

Each player's turn at the plate is a plate appearance. When the batter hits a fair ball, he must run to first base, and may continue or stop at any base unless he is put out. A victorious hit where the batter reaches only first base is a single; if he reaches second base, a double; or third base, a triple. A hit that allows the batter to touch all bases in order on the same play is a home run, whether or not the ball is hit over the fence. Once a runner is held to a base, he may attempt to advance at any time, but is not required to do so unless the batter or another runner displaces him.

Depending on the way the ball comes off the bat, the play is called something different. A batted ball is called a fly ball if it was hit in a way causing the fielder to catch it on its descent, or a line drive if it is hit in the air, but on a line. A batted ball which is not hit into the air, and which touches the ground within the infield before it can be caught, is called a ground ball.

Once the batter and any existing runners have all stopped at a base or been put out, the ball is returned to the pitcher, and the next batter comes to the plate. This continues until three outs have been recorded, at which point all runners are removed from the bases and the teams exchange sides for the next half-inning. After the opposing team bats in its own order and three more outs are recorded, the first team's batting order will continue again from where it left off.

Batting

Each plate appearance consists of a series of pitches, in which the pitcher throws the ball towards home plate while a batter is standing in the batter's box. With each pitch, the batter must decide whether or not to swing the bat at the ball in an attempt to hit it. The pitches arrive fast, so the decision must be made in less then a second. This decision is largely based on whether or not the ball is in the strike zone, a region defined by the area directly above home plate and between the batter's knees and underarms. In addition to swinging at the ball, a batter who wishes to put the ball in play may hold his bat over home plate and try to tap a pitch very lightly; this is called a bunt.

On any pitch, if the batter swings at the ball and misses, he is charged with a strike. If the batter does not swing, the home plate umpire judges whether or not the ball passed through the strike zone. If the ball passes through the zone, it is ruled a strike; otherwise, it is declared to be a ball. The number of balls and strikes thrown to the current batter is known as the count.
If the batter swings and makes contact with the ball, but does not put it in play in fair territory—a foul ball—he is charged with a strike, except when there are already two strikes. Thus, a foul ball with two strikes leaves the count unchanged, though a ball that is bunted foul with two strikes always counts as a third strike.

On the third strike the batter is declared out, a strikeout; on the fourth ball the batter is entitled to advance to first base without risk of being put out. This is called a base on balls or walk. If the batter puts the ball in play in fair territory, he becomes a baserunner, and must get to first base safely. A batter always drops his bat when running to first base—the bat otherwise would slow him down and also be a danger to fielders.

Running the bases

The goal of each batter is to become a baserunner himself (usually by a safe hit or a base on balls), or to help move other baserunners along. Once a batter gets a hit, a base on balls, or otherwise reaches base, he is said to be "on" that base until he attempts to advance to the next base, he is put out, or the half-inning ends. Runners on second or third base are considered to be in scoring position since ordinary hits, even singles, will often score them.

A runner who is touching a base which he is entitled to occupy is "safe"—he may not be tagged out. Runners may attempt to advance from base to base on any fair ball that touches the ground. When a ball is hit in the air, a fly ball, and caught by the defending team, runners must return and touch the base they occupied at the time of the pitch—called tagging up—after the ball is caught. Once they do this, they may effort to advance at their own risk.

Baserunners may attempt to advance, or steal a base, while the pitcher is throwing a pitch. The pitcher, in lieu of delivering the pitch, may try to prevent this by throwing the ball to one of the infielders in order to tag the runner; if successful, it is called a pick-off. If the runner attempts to steal the next base but is tagged out before reaching it safely, he is caught stealing.

The standard dimensions of a baseball field, with 90 feet (27.4 m) between bases, generate many close baserunning plays. In tag plays, a good slide can affect the outcome of the play, and even a standard play at first base can occur within fractions of a second. In general, baserunning is a planned part of the game requiring good judgment by runners (and their coaches) to assess the risk in attempting to advance.


Playing style

Baseball has an antique, unhurried pace. American football, basketball, ice hockey and soccer all use a clock, and fans must often watch games end while one team degrades the competitive element of the game by killing the clock rather than competing directly against the opposing team. But baseball has no clock; a team cannot win without getting the last batter out, and a rally can start at any time.

In recent decades, observers have criticized professional baseball for the length of its games, with some justification as the time required to play a baseball game has increased steadily through the years. One hundred years ago, games typically took an hour and a half to play; today, the average major league baseball game is finished in just under three hours. This is due to longer commercial breaks, increased offense, more pitching changes, and a decrease in the pace of play. In response, Major League Baseball has instructed umpires to be more strict in enforcing speed-up rules and the size of the strike zone. Other proposed changes, such as a "pitch clock" similar to basketball's shot clock, have met with strong opposition and have not been implemented.

Baseball is a team game—even two or three Hall of Fame caliber players cannot guarantee a pennant by themselves. Paradoxically, the game places individual players under great pressure and scrutiny. The pitcher must make a good pitch or suffer reproach; he may not pass it to another player. The hitter has a mere fraction of a second to make a choice and then swing the bat; no one can help him while he bats. If the batter hits a line drive, the outfielder, as the last line of defense, makes a lonely decision to try to catch it or play it on the bounce. Baseball history is full of heroes and goats—men who in the heat of the moment distinguished themselves with a timely hit or catch, or an untimely strikeout or error. A leisurely game on the surface, baseball is sudden and quick under. Baseball requires skill and athleticism, but also has a depth of strategy and anticipation which often goes unrecognized by those less familiar with the sport.


Sports Equipment and Clothing

Bat : A rounded, solid wooden or hollow aluminum bat. Wooden bats are usually made from ash wood, though maple is also sometimes used. Aluminum bats are not permitted in professional leagues, but are frequently used in amateur leagues.

Ball : A cork sphere, tightly wound with layers of yarn or string and covered with a stitched leather coat.

Mitt : Leather glove worn by players in the field. Long fingers and a webbed "pocket" between the thumb and first finger allow the fielder to catch the ball more easily.

Catcher's mitt : Leather glove worn by catchers. It is larger and better-padded than the standard fielder's mitt.

Batting glove : Glove often worn on one or both hands by the batter. They offer additional grip and eliminate some of the shock when making contact with the ball.

Hat : Baseball cap worn by all players. Designed to shade the eyes from the sun, this hat design has become popular with the general public.

Batting helmet : Helmet worn by batter to protect the head and the ear facing the pitcher from the ball.

Catcher's helmet : Protective helmet with face guard worn by the catcher.

Uniform : Shirt and pants worn by all players. Each team generally has a unique pattern of colors and designs.

Athletic supporter and cup : A hard plastic shell which protects the genitals from injury. The "cup supporter" (also known as a "jockstrap" or "jock") is a special undergarment designed to hold the cup in place without restricting movement.

Sliding shorts : Padded support shorts sometimes worn to protect the thighs when the player slides into the bases.

Spikes : Baseball shoes have spikes to increase traction on dirt and grass. Different levels of competition may allow different types of spikes. For example, Major League Baseball allows metal spikes to be worn while lower levels of competition (such as Tee-Ball or beginner baseball) may only allow plastic spikes. Baserunners will often use the spikes to their advantage by executing an aggressive slide, feet first towards the fielder, with the goal of "breaking up" a double play. Spikes are also sometimes referred to as cleats.

 

 

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