Pitchers, Catchers, Infielders, Outfielders and the Lineup. Be sure to catch up if you've missed any of the previous lessons. This week's lecture is going to cover a few basic rules that make you sound well-versed in the game of baseball even if you still don't fully understand the game.
The game of baseball is played between two teams who alternate between offense and defense. There are nine innings in a game and each inning is divided in half—each team gets three outs per half inning. The top of the inning is when the visiting team hits and the home team plays the field and then vice versa in the bottom of the inning. Each team fields nine players and the ultimate goal is to score more runs than the other team. A run is scored when a player runs completely around the bases back to home plate. The bases are 90 feet apart on the infield which is shaped like a diamond—what's not to like about this sport?
As with most sports, baseball has specific equipment that is used. When playing the field (defense), a glove is worn to catch the ball on the non-throwing hand. The baseball is roughly three inches in diameter and there's something beautiful about the stark whiteness of the leather covering with the red stitching. The offense uses a bat to hit the ball which, at the major league level, can only be made of wood—most often ash is used.
On offense, each team's batting order (the lineup) gets their turn at the plate to try and get on base. If the batter hits the ball into the field of play, they run to first base and beyond if they can get there without getting out. If a batter gets three strikes (a swing and a miss or a called strike by the umpire), they're called out. On the other hand, if there are four balls (a pitch not in the strike zone), that batter automatically takes first base. If the batter hits the ball over the outfield fence in fair territory, it's a home run and the batter can circle all four bases.
On defense, there are several ways the team can get an opposing player out. The pitcher can strike out the batter (which is the most fun way as far as I'm concerned!) There are force outs which occur when, after the ball is hit, the defensive player with the ball reaches the base before the runner. Fly outs generally happen in the outfield when the batter hits a fly ball that is caught before the ball hits the ground. Or the runner can be tagged out when the defensive player just touches that runner with the ball (or the glove with the ball in it.)
Baseball is the perfect sport for a lazy, hot summer day. The pace of the game is generally slower than most sports and, maybe this is what I love so much about it, it doesn't require your full attention every second of the game.