Baseball Basics: A Beginner's Guide to the Game
Looking to learn the basic rules of baseball? You've come to the right place! I'm so passionate about baseball, I wrote a book for young kids on this very topic.
Baseball is a simple (yet complicated!) game. In today's world of analytics and technology, there is something new to learn everyday - and yet, all it takes is a few general rules to begin to learn about and love the game. Let's dive in!
How does baseball work? How do you win?
There are two teams. At any given time, one will be on offense, and one will be on defense.
For the team on defense, a pitcher will stand on the pitcher's mound and throw a baseball to the catcher. The pitcher's goal is to try and throw the ball past the batter into the catcher's mitt, or have the ball hit to one of the remaining seven players on defense in the field for them to catch the ball in the air for an out, or throw the ball to tag the batter.
On offense, the batter will try and hit that ball as far as he can, and his goal is to round the bases to score a run. The team on defense will try and stop the players who are at-bat from scoring.
Whoever scores the most runs, wins!
What is the field like?
The baseball field is comprised of three bases (first, second and third), and home plate. Home plate is both where the batter stands when he's up to bat, and where the runner must touch once he's made it around the bases to score a run. Each base is 90 feet apart, and is in the shape of a diamond - which is why it's referred to as a baseball diamond.
The field is split into the infield and the outfield. The outfield is large, so you'll usually want players out there who can run fast when chasing down fly balls - or balls hit in the air. The outfield is also made up of grass, while the infield is mostly dirt. The pitcher stands on a mound in the middle of the infield, throws the ball to the catcher that sets up behind home plate, and the remaining players stand near their corresponding bases.
What are strikes and balls?
A strike is called when the pitcher successfully throws the ball past the batter, into the catcher's mitt, as long as it's within the strike zone - or if the ball is hit outside the field of play. This is called a foul ball. While you can't strike out on a foul ball, you can rack up the first two strikes that way.
Another way for a strike to be called is if the batter swings at the pitch, but misses, regardless of if the ball is thrown within the strike zone or not. A batter gets three strikes, and then he's out!
Conversely, if the pitcher throws the ball outside of the zone and the batter does not swing, it's called a ball. If a batter is able to get four balls before they get three strikes (or are thrown out another way, such as a ground or fly ball), they go to first base, for free! This is called a walk.
How long are baseball games? Can a baseball game end in a tie?
In baseball, there are nine innings. Each inning has a top half, and a bottom half. The top of the inning is when the away team (also called the visiting team) has a chance to bat, and the bottom of the inning is when the home team gets their turn.
For each half of an inning, the team at-bat can continue to hit until the defense has recorded three outs.
Outs can be recorded via things like a strike out, a fly ball (a ball hit in the air and caught) or a ground ball (a ball hit on the ground, picked up by a defender and thrown to the base before the batter is able to get to the base).
Whichever team has the most runs after nine innings wins the game! Unless the game goes to extra innings.
Extra innings is baseball's version of overtime - and the game will continue until the home team takes the lead in the bottom of the inning, or the away team takes the lead in the top of the inning and the home team fails to retake the lead in the bottom of the inning.
How many players are on each team? What do they do?
Each team has nine active players at any given time. When on defense, the positions are as follows:
Pitcher, Catcher (together they are also known as the battery)
First, Second and Third Basemen, each defending their corresponding base
Shortstop (plays between the second and third baseman)
Left Fielder, Center Fielder and Right Fielder
Every defender wears a glove, also known as a mitt. This is to catch or trap the baseball - a small ball, approximately 9 to 9.25 inches in circumference and weighing approximately 5 ounces. It is a white leather ball with 108 red laces.
When on offense, there are nine hitters in the lineup. The lineup is usually set by the team's manager, the head coach, and can be in any order. The team's best three hitters will usually bad first, second and third. The players must bat in order.
Players in professional baseball use wooden bats. In lower levels, metal bats may be used. In all levels, players wear helmets when up to bat and wear cleats on their feet.
Are baseball and football cleats the same?
No, they're not. They may look similar, but they all have different purposes - each providing a different kind of support for the sport at hand.
When was baseball created?
Some people credit a man named Abner Doubleday with inventing the game of baseball in 1839 - but historical data actually shows that games similar to baseball were around in the 18th century! It's a classic, wonderful game that has truly withstood the test of time.
-There are two teams, each with nine active players.
-There are nine innings, unless the game goes to extra innings.
-On offense, the batter gets three strikes before they're called out - or four balls before they're able to go to first base for free, which is called a walk.
-The offensive team can bat until three of their batters are called out.
-An out can be a strike out, a ball caught in the air (fly ball), or a ground ball thrown to the base before the runner gets there (ground out).
-To score, a batter must touch first, second, third and then home plate before being tagged out.
-Whoever scores the most runs in nine innings, wins!
What do I have to know to enjoy a day at the ballpark?
Truly - nothing. A day at the ballpark is fun for everyone. And if you find yourself enjoying it, stay tuned here for more tips, tricks and rules! You'll be up to speed in no time.
Have a young baseball lover in your life? For a hardcover book with rules laid out in a fun way for ages 0-6, check out Max & Ollie's Guide to Baseball!