Baseball - How to Play?
There are two main aspects of playing the game. A team has to bat initially and the other team has to defend the pitch. Once the innings is complete the roles are reversed, and this goes on for up to nine innings at professional level.
As discussed earlier, nine players of a team stand at specific defensive positions on the field during defensive play. During offensive play, all players act as batsmen, taking turns and try to hit the ball.
Once the batter hits the ball, he/she can begin to run from home plate counter clockwise from one base to the other and back to the home plate to score a point. The defensive team that fields the court tries to get the ball and tag it to the batsman to end the run chase.
The pitcher pitches the baseball at a certain level towards the batsman, over the home plate. A clever pitcher pitches a difficult ball to make it difficult for the batsman to hit it far and score runs.
The catcher takes his position behind the home plate with heavy protective gear and a special mitt. He crouches to pick the ball up if the batsman misses it and also fields if the ball lands close by.
The first baseman, who should be a good catcher, stands at the first base and tries to get hold of the ball before the batsman reaches the first base and tags him.
The second baseman tries to tag the batsman by guarding the area between the first and the second base, and helps catch ground balls before they roll into the outfield.
The third baseman closely guards third base; he is skilled in sending the balls back to the first base across the diamond with a strong throwing arm.
Three players, called the out-fielders, guard each of the left, right, and centre sections of the outfield. They catch balls that reach far when the batsman hits hard to score more runs.
The umpire shouldn’t favour any team and should act unbiased. He watches the game closely to announce runs scored in each play.
Only offensive team members who bat can get an out. Once a player is out, he or she is removed from the batting rotation and from play for the rest of the inning. Once three players of the offensive team are out, the defensive team gets a chance to bat.
A batsman can hit either a fair ball or a foul ball. If the batsman advances to a base without any errors, it is called a hit.
When the batsman swings at the ball but misses it, it is called a strike. Foul balls too result in strike. Three strikes will make the batsman out and is called a Strike Out.
Once a batsman is out, the next batsman in the batting order gets the chance to bat.
When a ball is pitched too far from the hitting area to be hit by the batsman, it is called a ball. After four balls, the batsman gets a free advancement to first base. The situation is also called base on balls or walk.
When the batsman hits the ball outside the foul lines, it is a foul ball.
When a foul ball is caught and turned into flyout, the foulball is counted as a strike.
Besides the batsmen, the runners too stay at the bases to score runs. They try to steal the bases by running even before the batter hits the ball, this is called hit and run.
There are many styles of pitching. The defending team members pitch the ball in such a way that it is difficult for the batsman to hit and score runs. They also try to out the batsman.
Checked Swing − A ball pitched in such a way that it rotates almost halfway around.
Cheese − A great fastball pitch.
Curveball − A ball that bends leftwards when pitched with the right hand, and rightwards when delivered with the left.
Cutter − A fast ball is called a cutter or a cut fastball when it breaks slightly before reaching home plate.
Fork Ball − A ball pitched by holding it firmly with the index and middle fingers to pitch it slower and usually ground it.
Fast Ball − A ball pitched straight and fast.
Throw − It is different from a pitch. A pitcher uses the hand to drive the ball towards a teammate or to a specific spot.
Sinker − A fastball pitched downwards.
Wild Pitch − A ball is pitched too wide by mistake that the catcher cannot block it and runners get time to advance and score runs.
Slider − A curveball made with a straight wrist, to trick the hitter that it is a fastball, but it breaks on reaching the home plate.
Knuckle Ball − Holding the ball with knuckles to prevent it from spinning.
Quick Return Pitch − A pitch intended to throw off the batsman, sometimes pitched when the batsman signals joy after a home run.
Runners stay on bases and make runs by running to the next base. Apart from the batsman, base runners also run to have a head start while trying to score a point. Maximum of three runners can be at the field, one runner may be placed at each of the bases.
The run can be made in singles, doubles, triples and home runs, as runners advance to first, second, or third base, or back to the home plate in one hit without any errors. A homerun hit while all bases are loaded is called a Grand Slam. Singles and doubles are more common than triples and home runs.
In some cases, the pitching might be so tough and the outfielders closely guard the defending team that the team might fail without any runs; in that case, the team is said to have shut out.
Outs Or Errors
A batsman or a runner can be put out or run down when they cannot reach the next base before getting tagged. Tagging is done by making the runner touch the ball. Otherwise, runners reach the base safely and score a run.
If the ball lands in the foul territory after it is hit, it is also considered to be an error. When the bases are loaded, more than one runner can be put out. Two outs in a single hit is called Double play and three outs is called a Triple play.
Sometimes the runner is forced to advance to the next base and get out because there is a runner behind him. Such outs are celled force outs.
A Game might be forfeited when a team is awarded a win as the opposing team commits a foul.