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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
: 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.
A cork sphere, tightly wound with layers of yarn
or string and covered with a stitched leather
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.
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.
Protective helmet with face guard worn by the
Shirt and pants worn by all players. Each team
generally has a unique pattern of colors and designs.
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
Sliding shorts :
Padded support shorts sometimes worn to protect
the thighs when the player slides into the bases.
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.