Baseball – How to play the most popular game in America
We don’t have specific historical pieces of evidence for baseball. And so, it’s difficult to know about the exact origin of the game. However, traces of historical information link the game to ancient Egypt. It was a prevalent sport for a long time.
Moreover, the ball which was in use over 2000 years ago is on display in the British Museum.
In the 14th century, people in Romania and Russia played games that resembled ‘baseball.’ French monks played a similar game around the year1330. A poet by name William Pagula mentioned milkmaids playing a game. They used milking stools as wickets. And the poet referred to the game as ‘Stoolball.’
Most historians agree that the game is an evolution of the English game ‘rounders.’ The game became quite popular in America in the 19th century. Many sources reported the popular game as ‘townball,’ ‘base,’ or ‘baseball.’ Similarly, Germans played a game named Schlagball.
The first reference in history to Rounders is from 1744. It appeared in “A little pretty pocketbook”. Moreover, it was a book for children and a British publisher John Newbery printed it.
Interestingly, Baseball and Rounders might have the same origin as Cricket. Among the two games, Cricket came to London in the 14th century.
“Northanger Abbey” is an 18th-century book. In the book, the British Author Jane Austen mentioned baseball. Johann Gutsmuth, a German author, also noted a game “English Baseball” in 1796.
Meanwhile, Alexander Cartwright founded a team, The Knickerbockers in 1839. He wrote the rules of the game in 1845. He organized a competition in the United States on 19th June 1846 in Hoboken, New Jersey.
However, the first baseball game played dates back to June 1838. The game was played in Ontario, Canada.
The game grew in popularity. Subsequently, the National Association of Baseball Players (NABBP) was formed in the year 1850. In the year 1876, the National League started its function.
The United States tried to make it a popular international game. A professional player, Esteban Bellan, introduced the game in Cuba. Then the game spread to the Caribbean countries.
The game became popular in Japan in 1870. The man behind the popularity was Horace Wilson. Then, the game quickly reached Korea and Taiwan.
In 1888 and 1889, Australia, New Zealand, and South Pacific played the tournaments. In addition, Albert Spalding organized a tour in 1889, and he took the game to Italy.
The game became an international game in the 20th century. The American League began its competition against the National League in the World Series. It was in the year 1903.
Organized Baseball Leagues started in the year 1922 in The Netherlands. The countries, Australia in 1934 and Japan in 1936 followed it. Then it came to Puerto Rico in 1938 and Venezuela and Mexico in 1945.
Rules of Baseball
Baseball has two teams of 9 players.
Pitcher, catcher, first baseman, second baseman, shortstop and third baseman form the positions in the fielding side. Moreover, the three outfielders at left field, center field, and right field are also part of the fielding side.
A baseball game consists of nine innings. In an inning, both teams get the chance to bat once. The team which gets more points becomes the winner. In the case of a tie, an extra-inning will be played to decide the winner.
If the team which is batting second at the bottom of the ninth inning is already ahead in points, there is no need to complete the batting innings.
The batting order will remain the same throughout the game. Though substitutes replace the players, they should also follow the same order. So, the substitutes play in the order of the players they replace.
When the batter hits the ball from the pitcher, he will try to make runs. The batter will try to reach at least the first base. In his attempt, the batter wants to get as many runs as possible. However, some part of the body of the batter should touch each base.
The umpire calls a ball ‘strike’ when the ball is within striking distance, and the batter misses the hit. In the situation, if the batter doesn’t swing his bat, it’s also ‘strike.’ When the batter misses the ball, it goes to the catcher. The umpire will signal ‘out’ if the batter misses continuously and the catcher gets the ball for the third time.
On the other hand, if the ball misses the striking zone, it is advantageous to the batsman. For the fourth continuous throwing of such a ball, the batter can walk to the first base. The condition is that the batter should not swing his bat. ( should not attempt to hit the ball)
The batter gets “out” by ‘strike out’ if he misses the ball three times, by ‘force out’ if the batter doesn’t reach a base before the defensive player, by ‘fly-out’ if a fielder catches the ball in the air and ‘tag out’ if a defensive player tags the batter while he is running.
The glove is one of the basic requirements of a baseball player. For your choice, there are a lot of gloves from many companies available in the market. They vary in sizes, materials, designs, and colors. However, the catcher wears a bigger glove called ‘mitt.’ It is useful in handling high-speed balls.
Many batters wear gloves to protect their hands. They prefer to wear gloves to get protection from blisters and protect their hands while sliding into bases.
The baseball bat varies in size. For young people, bats with smaller barrels which are lighter in weight are available. But, bats for adults have bigger barrels and are heavier in weight.
Baseball bats are made of aluminum and other types of metals. However, professional players use only wooden bats which are made from ash trees.
The standard size of the bat is 2.75 inches in diameter at the barrel and 42 inches in length.
The essential factor in the selection of the baseball bat is ‘the bat drop.’ It is the difference between the length of the bat(in inches) and the weight of the bat ( ounces). Different leagues recommend different bat drops. And more than anything else, the batter should feel comfortable with the bat.
It’s essential to choose a bat that is comfortable for a player. Taller players will generally use longer and heavier bats.
The ball is a cork or rubber at the center, and the yarn is wrapped around it. Cowhide or horsehide is stitched around the yarn tightly to cover it. The ball used in baseball is between 9 and 9.25 inches in circumference. It weighs between 5 and 5.25 ounces.
For some youth leagues, using a softer ball is in practice, and it is known as Reduced Injury Factor (RIF) baseball.
Hat and Helmet
The players use hats to protect their eyes from the bright light of the Sun. It is easy to see the baseball hat in other sports celebrations like football or golf tournaments.
The helmet is an important baseball gear that any player should wear. Wearing it during a practice session or casual play is also advisable as it is a sure way of protection from any fatal injuries.
The baseball pants, jersey, and the baseball cap are the dresses the players wear in professional games. Socks may also be a part of the uniform as well, and the players usually wear long pants in the games.
Cleats help the players from slipping and so they wear it during batting and fielding.
Catchers are the players who face every fastball from the pitcher and so they need a complete and sure way of protection.
To get the protection, catchers should wear a full set of protective gear, including masks, helmets, shin guards, chest guards, cups, and neck protectors. It’s safe to ensure the quality and the right fit of the gears before entering every game.
Baseball – Play Area
In general, people call the baseball field as diamond because of its shape. The two basic parts of the field are the infield and the outfield.
The infield is the place where most of the actions take place. It’s the place where the four bases are marked. The bases are at a distance of 90 feet from each other, which form a square. Further, the bases are at a diagonal alignment and form the diamond shape. We also call the third base as ‘hot corner.’
The much-used term in baseball “home plate” represents the place where the batter bats. It is larger in the area and also forms one of the bases. The home plate is pentagonal in shape and is a flat slab of rubber.
The three other bases are equal in size. Moreover, the bases have numerical identification. The numbering starts from the right side of the batter when the player stands on the home plate facing the outfield. To score the runs, the players have to run from the bases to reach the home plate.
Mud or dirt is being used to make the paths that join the bases, and the baselines enclose the diamond. It is covered in grass or artificial turf. The area outside the diamond which has its boundary with the inner lines of the outfield doesn’t have grass on it.
It’s the place from which the pitcher throws the ball at the batsman. This circular area is almost at the center of the infield, and it has no grass on it. Instead, it’s a dirt mound, and the diameter of the circle is 18 ft.
A white rubber rectangular slab that measures 5ft × 3ft is inside the circular area. The slab is at a distance of 60 ft 6 inches from the home base, and the slab has an elevation of 10 inches at the back.
It has another rectangular pitchers’ plate or pitchers’ rubber. And the plate is at the distance of 6 inches from the front, 18 inches from the sides and 24 inches from the back.
The area between the outer boundary of the infield and the outer fence of the play area is called the outfield.
Behind the home plate, is the catcher’s box where the catcher catches the ball if the batter misses it. Coaches’ boxes are outside the foul lines. And Dugout is the area where officials and the teammates who are not in the play take their seats
How to play baseball
Depending on whether your team is batting or fielding, it is offensive or defensive play respectively.
The way of playing offense
Start to bat
A batter will occupy the home plate to start the play. He/She stands on one of the batter’s boxes and faces the balls from the pitcher. The batter may check his playing by swinging the bat before the pitcher starts to bowl. He /She may practice his shots before the pitcher bowls.
As the players run from bases, no one player faces the ball continuously. All players in the team act as batters and they take turns in hitting the ball.
Watch the pitcher & the ball
A batter has to observe the pitcher and the ball. You have to decide whether to hit the ball or not, correctly. Because mere swinging of the bat and not hitting the ball continuously for three times will get you ‘out.’
Depending on your action and your hit, you either get runs or get any one of the calls: strike, ball or foul ball from the umpire.
Swing the bat & hit the ball
In baseball, you don’t keep your bat low and touch the ground before hitting the ball. Keep the bat upright with both of your hands while you’re standing with your feet parallel, and knees slightly bent.
In making the swing, bring the bat forward swiftly and shift your weight from back foot to front foot. At the same time, following the ball keenly is essential to make contact with it at the right time.
After hitting the ball, the batter can run to the first base while the ball is on the move. The ball will be either on-air or the field, while the batter runs for the bases. However, the batter doesn’t take the bat with him, and he/she leaves the bat on the home plate.
The runner either stops at the first base or runs continuously as long as it is safe to run without getting out.
A defensive player who has possession of the ball can touch the batter, who is still running and not yet reached the base. It is tagging the player and getting out the batter in this way is known as “tag out.”
Getting the batter out by catching the ball before it touches the ground or wall is called “fly out.” If it is not the third out of the inning, all base runners should return to the base. On their return, it is possible to get the runners out by throwing the ball back to the base that must be reached.
If a batter or a runner runs to the next base, the player on that base should vacate the base and run to the next base. The player is said to be a “forced runner.”
A batter can be “forced out” if a defensive player who gets possession of the ball reached the first base before the batter could reach it. A forced runner can also be forced out in this manner.
By rules, a player at a base need not wait for the batter to hit the ball and he/she can run to the next base at any time of play. Usually, a runner running to the next base as soon as the pitcher has pitched the ball is called stealing the base.
In baseball, players don’t try to run to the next base at any other time. As the pitcher has the best throwing capability, he/she would throw the ball to the baseman instead of the batter and can get out the player who tries to steal.
By the rules of the game, at any time there should be only one player on each base. When all three bases have a runner, the offensive team is said to have the “bases loaded.” In this situation, the next hit or walk will result in either a run or an out.
When the batter hits a fair ball and able to touch all the four bases, it is called “home run.” He should not get out while getting the runs.
In the game, most of the time a batter hits the ball in the air over the outfield fence in fair territory to get the home run. The batter touches all four bases, and runners on the base also score runs. In this situation, the batter takes the runs without the fear of ‘run out.’
In some rare instances, inside the park – home runs also happen. To make this possible, the runner should be very fast, and there should be any misfield in the outfield.
Game shifts with the three “outs.”
Whenever three batters/runners got out, the chance is over for the offensive team and the game shifts now. The defensive team will take the position as the offensive team.
A baseball game has nine innings, and each inning comprises of two parts as “top” and “bottom.” When the offensive team got out after the three outs, the game will move to the bottom of the inning.
If the top part of the inning is on the play, the game will move to the bottom part. Otherwise, if it is the bottom part of an inning, the game will move to the top part of the next inning.
The way of playing defense
Pitch the ball
A member from the team who has special skills as a pitcher will start to throw the ball from the pitcher’s mound. The aim of the pitcher is getting out the batter, and he/she will try fastball, curveball, changeups, and sliders.
Catch the ball
The ball will either roll on the ground or move in the air after the batter hits it. The defensive team which has its fielders spread out in the infield and the outfield will try to catch the ball if it is in the air. They have to catch it before the ball hits the ground and subsequently, the batter will get an ‘out.’
On the other hand, if the ball moves on the ground, the fielder must try to stop it and throw it to any of the teammates, who is close enough to tag or force a run-out.
Tag the runners
After hitting the ball, the batter and the runners run toward the next bases. A player in the defense team can tag the player who is running for the bases as long as he has the ball with him. Then the runner will get an out.
Any baseman from the defense team, who is guarding the base, can catch a passed ball and step one foot on the base to get out the forced runner who is running towards that base.
Get multiple run-outs
In baseball, it is possible to get out more than one runner in the offensive team in a single play. In this manner, the double play is getting out two players. Similarly, triple play is also possible if the field setting is very tight.
Double play is a common occurrence, and it generally happens by forcing out a runner at second base and then forcing out the batter.
Play all the innings and win the game
Unlike many other games, baseball has no time restrictions, and after playing all the innings, the high scoring team emerges as the winner.
It is very unusual for a baseball game to end in a tie. In the case of a tie, extra innings are useful in deciding the winning team.
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