Life in the United States: Baseball
Major League Baseball
Baseball is called the “National Pastime” of the United States because it is so popular. There are thirty teams spread across the country, and many people have their own favorite “home team.”
The game is played by two teams. When one team is in the field, the other team takes turns at bat. A baseball player first bats at the ball and then runs around the bases in an effort to score. Points, called “runs,” are scored when a player on the batting team touches all the bases (including home plate) without being tagged or put “out” by a player on the fielding team. The team scoring the greater number of runs in nine “innings” wins the game. Each inning is divided into two halves: top and bottom. Both teams are allowed three outs per half inning.
There are 9 men on a team: pitcher, catcher, first baseman, second baseman, third baseman, shortstop, left fielder, center fielder and right fielder. All the team members take a turn at bat, except for the pitcher, who does not bat on some teams.
The diamond, or “infield,” is named for its diamond shape. This area has a base at each corner. Runners move counterclockwise around the bases, starting from “home plate” (also called “home base”).
Each play starts at the “pitcher’s mound” in the center of the diamond. When the pitcher throws the ball, he must have one foot on the white rubber plate on the pitcher’s mound. The catcher crouches behind the batter at home plate. The “outfield” is the area beyond the infield – outside the “baseline,” the area where the batters run from one base to the next, and inside the “foul lines.” Foul lines define the area that is okay to play in. A “fair” ball is a ball that stays inside the foul lines. A batted ball that lands outside fair territory or touches fair ground, but rolls outside the foul line before reaching first or third base is a “foul ball.”
Each batter tries to reach first base safely, then advance around the other bases and score a run.
A batter can be out in any one of three ways:
- He hits a ball but the fielder catches it before it touches the ground (“flyball”).
- He hits a ball on the ground that a fielder picks up and throws to first base before the batter touches that base
- He “strikes out,” meaning he swings the bat and misses the ball three times.
A base runner makes an out in one of five ways:
- A fielder tags him with the ball while he is not touching base
- He runs out of the base line to avoid being tagged
- A fly ball is caught and thrown to the base he left before he can get back
- He is hit by a batted ball
- He is forced to advance to the next base by the next runner (there can only be one runner on a base at a time) but he does not reach the base before the fielder tags it while holding the ball
Each team bats until it makes three outs. An inning has been played when each team makes three outs.
The batter stands in the “batter’s box,” one of the rectangles marked on each side of home plate. If he does not swing the bat at a pitch, the “umpire” (like an official or referee) calls it either a “ball” or a “strike.” A ball is when the pitched ball does not cross home plate between the batter’s armpits and the top of his knees. A strike would be when the ball does cross home plate between the batter’s armpits and the top of his knees. A ball hit into the foul area counts as a strike, unless there are already two strikes; in this case, the player continues to bat. If the pitcher throws four balls to one batter, then the batter can “walk,” meaning he can go to first base without hitting the ball.
The batter runs as far as he can when he gets a “hit.” He hits a single if he stops at first base, a double if he reaches second base, and a triple if he runs to third base. A “home run” or “homer” is when the batter makes it around all the bases to home plate without being out. In many baseball parks a fence encloses the outfield. It is an automatic homer when the ball is hit over this fence on a fly. A home run scores one run for the batter and a run for each player on base. If the bases are “loaded” (a player on first, second and third base) and the batter gets a home run, it is called a “grand slam,” the team gets four runs, and the fans get very excited because it doesn’t happen very often.
Each team is part of a league. There are two leagues, the American League and the National League. Each team tries to win the most games in their league. The teams that win each league championship will play each other in the “World Series.”
There are minor differences in the rules and there are fewer innings, but the game is basically the same.