Understanding Baseball: The First Step to Mingling with Americans

Understanding Baseball: The First Step to Mingling with Americans

Baseball isn’t dubbed as America’s National Pastime lightly. You’ll find that most Americans have a deep passion for the sport, and they’ve partaken in the activity at least once in their life.

The most straightforward way to an American’s heart is by being able to hold a conversation about baseball. But, it isn’t a very easy sport to master. There are tricky rules that apply in certain circumstances that only experts know.

For Americans, the knowledge and love for the sport have been passed down through generations. But for you, a mere beginner, you need to put in some extra effort.

The Significance of Baseball in American History

It is well-known that the American Civil War was one of the most devastating wars in all of American history, especially in terms of loss of life. But, did you know that baseball has its roots around this time? Playing the sport was a distraction from reality for both sides of the conflict.

The first professional baseball league was started in 1871. The hallmark players are regarded as national heroes. There are even multiple baseball museums in the U.S. honoring all of the legendary players.

Yet again, during the Civil Rights Movement, baseball stood as a symbol of segregation and unification.  African Americans weren’t allowed to play in the largest professional leagues. The unwritten practice of the segregation prohibited them. 

This barrier prevented African American players’ entry into the game until 1947. Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby are credited with being the first black players in Major League Baseball.

Now, even centuries after its inception, the sport still has the same hold over Americans as it did before.

But, to proclaim yourself even a novice at the sport, you need to know the basics. Read further to brush up on your baseball knowledge.

The Players Involved

Baseball is played between two teams, and there are nine playing members per team. In total, though, there may be up to 25 players per team. The non-playing 16 are substitutes.

Any number of players can be substituted per game. But once substituted, they cannot return to the field. The substitution can happen due to fatigue, injury, or even tactical reasons.

The Field Played On

A baseball infield is also called ‘the diamond’. At each of the corners, there is a base. A base is marked by a square-shaped white plate. Batters hit from the home base, run to the first base, second, third, and finally return to the home base again. This is one run for the batting team. The infield is usually made of dirt.

The outfield extends from the edge of the infield to the boundary wall. This part is the grass portion of the field.

The pitchers’ mound is an artificial hill in the field. This is where the pitcher stands to throw the ball to the batter. The mound is equidistant from the first and third bases. It is a bit closer to the home base than it is to the second base.

The Basic Premise of the Game

The team that scores the most runs wins the game. Unlike most other games, baseball has no set playing duration. Instead, it is the number of innings played that determines the game’s length.

In professional baseball, each team usually plays nine half-innings. So there are nine innings in total. We say usually because if the game is a tie after nine innings, it will extend until there’s a clear winner.

A half-inning ends after the batting team gets three outs. The batting team tries to score as many runs in their inning as possible.

Scoring Runs in Baseball

One circuit by one player through all the bases is one run. When a player steps up to bat, it is called ‘at-bat’. The batter hits the ball pitched to them, then runs to first base. If they stop at that base, they become a base runner.

Then, the next player bats, and the base runner can run to the succeeding bases and finally to the home base. The runner must physically touch each base for it to count towards a run. A skipped base is not accepted.

In one hit, a team can score a maximum of four runs.

Getting Players Out

While it is the goal of the batting team to score runs, the pitching team’s goal is to get their opponents out. There are various ways in which to do this.


First, some terms:

  • A pitched ball is ruled a ball if the batter doesn’t swing their bat at it, and the umpire considers that the ball didn’t pass through what’s called the “strike zone.”
  • A pitched ball is ruled a strike if the batter swings at it and doesn’t connect, and the umpire considers that the ball passed through the strike zone

You have probably heard the phrase “three strikes and you’re out.” It originated from baseball. A strikeout happens when the player at-bat gets three strikes. The umpire decides if the pitch is a strike or a ball. A foul ball also counts as a strike, but only the first two times.


If a fielder manages to catch a ball hit into the air, it is a catch. A catch automatically makes the batter out. The ball must be caught before it touches the ground for it to be considered a catch.

Tag Outs

A tag out happens when a fielder touches the base runner with the ball when the runner is off the base. The fielder must be holding the ball in the hand that touches the base runner. If even the tips of the runner’s toes are on the base, it isn’t considered an out. There is an umpire at each base monitoring this.

Thrown Out

Each base is manned by a fielder. Say the baseball is thrown to the fielder at second base and there is a base runner from first base to second base. If the second base fielder steps on the base with the ball in hand before the runner gets there, the runner is out.

Forced Out

Two runners cannot occupy the same base. So, if the runner at base one gets to the second base, the second base player has to run. If the second base runner doesn’t make it to third base in time, it is called a forced out. To prevent this, there must be synchronization between the teammates.


Runners and batters cannot interfere with the fielders between plays. If they do, they can be called out by the umpire.

If the batting team gets three outs in any one of these ways, then the half-inning ends. The two teams switch roles and continue with the game.

What Is A Foul?

There are four ways to get a foul ball in baseball:

  1. A ball landing outside the fair territory is a foul ball. The fair territory is the area between the first and third bases and the outer wall. So, the area behind the home base to first base and the home base to third base are foul territories.
  2. A ball bounding past the foul territory and into the stands is also a foul ball.
  3. If the ball lands first onto foul territory and then moves to fair territory, it is still a foul.
  4. If the batted ball touches anything that is on foul territory, then it is a foul ball. So, if the ball hits the batter in the batter box, it is a foul.

Base runners cannot move forward on foul balls. The first two strikes against a batter can be issued on a foul ball. These are only the rudimentary principles of the game. There are numerous other elaborate rules and player positions involved, but to understand a game of baseball, this information will suffice.

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