Baseball is played by both men and women. The most important thing in baseball is to enjoy the game! In the following explanation, he, him and player can be replaced by she, her and player. For outsiders, baseball is a difficult sport. The rules are not as clear as in a sport like football. That makes baseball not only a lot more unique, but also more beautiful. To get acquainted with the different rules of baseball for the first time, here is a little introduction to the important things you have to deal with when you play baseball.
Baseball is a field sport, played by two teams of nine players each who take turns batting and fielding. The field consists of a square with space around it. At the corners are the bases: three flat white cushions and fourth, a pentagonal white rubber plate as the home base. Next to this home base, the batting cages are laid out. To the left of the base is a right-handed batting cage, to the right a left-handed batting cage. Just before the centre of the square is a white rubber throwing plate, where the pitcher sits.
A game consists of nine innings. In each inning, each team is batting once and fielding once. Only the batter can score runs. The fielding team members all have fielding positions. The pitcher throws the ball overhand (the ball has more speed than an underhand throw) towards the batter. The batter hits it into the field with the bat and then runs to first base, from there to second, third and home. He then runs to first base and then to second, third and home.
The pitcher must always throw the ball so that it passes the home plate at a height bounded by the width of the batter’s plate and the batter’s shoulders and knees (“strike zone”). If three players of the batting team are out, the fielding team and the batting team switch. The team that has the most runs after nine innings is the winner. If there is a tie after nine innings, both teams continue to bat. In the Netherlands, however, a game lasts a maximum of twelve innings.
The equipment of the baseball player
The basic equipment of a baseball player consists of a ball, a glove and a bat. Players wear special shoes. These so-called spikes have sharp points (youth plays with rubber studs) on the sole in order to get a better grip on the gravel. For players who come to bat in a game, wearing a batting helmet is mandatory. The catcher has special equipment to protect him (see equipment catcher).
The glove is the most important piece of equipment and very personal. The glove moulds itself to the hand and the way the player uses it. It is therefore not comfortable to use someone else’s glove. The catcher uses a glove of a distinctly different model than the other players. It is a large and much thicker glove than the others. He has to catch all the, usually hard thrown, balls from the pitcher. The gloves of the other players in the field are also different. The outfielders use very large gloves to be able to catch the high, long balls. An infielder, with the exception of the first baseman, uses a small glove because he has to be able to get the ball out of his glove very quickly in order to throw it to another player.
The outside of the ball used in baseball is made of leather and is about the same size as a tennis ball but almost six times as heavy. It is a hard, solid ball, which has a circumference of 229 to 235 millimetres and a weight of 141 to 149 grams.
The choice of the bat depends on the length, weight, strength and speed of the player. There is no standard rule. Many players, especially beginners, think that they can hit better and further with a bigger bat. Often you see players with a too big and too heavy bat. They cannot react quickly enough to the ball thrown by the pitcher. The result is that they do not hit the ball or they are too late and therefore hit the ball outside the lines. They thus achieve the opposite of what is intended. A rule of thumb for beginners is to first choose the bat you can still handle easily and then use a slightly lighter bat. The best hitters in baseball today use light aluminium bats. The hardwood or light metal round bat should not exceed 1.07 metres in length and its diameter should not exceed seven centimetres.
The equipment of the catcher
The catcher wears a helmet, a mask, a body protector and leg guards. He has to catch the balls thrown by the pitcher, which is not always easy. It often happens that the ball does not end up in his glove, but that the catcher stops the ball with his body. Therefore, this must be fully protected.
The baseball field
Fixed points in the field are home plate, the three bases and the pitcher’s mound. The lines from home plate to first base and from home plate to third base, further extended, indicate two boundaries of the field. The outfield fence is the third boundary and stands on average 90 to 120 metres from home plate. The distance between the bases is 27.50 metres. The distance between home plate and first and third base is also 27.50 metres. The distance between the pitcher’s plate and home plate is 18.45 metres. A professional pitcher throws the balls at a speed of approximately 40 m/second (144 km/hour). This gives the batter half a second to decide whether to strike or walk the ball and to decide whether to attempt to swat it away. Both first and third base have a box outside the lines for a coach, who gives instructions to the base runners during the game. The players who are not in the field sit in the dugout of their own team.
The teams and the players’ tasks
Baseball is played by two teams of nine players each. The players of the team at bat all have more or less the same task. They must hit the ball (as far as possible) into the field. The players of the fielding side all have a different task. In fielding, it is clear that baseball is a team effort of specialists.
The team at bat is the attacking team. This team can score runs, while the infield team must try to prevent that. Usually, the batter will try to hit the ball as far as possible into the field. The best is of course to hit the ball so far away that it ends up outside the field. The ball then goes over the outfield fence and is out of reach of the fielders. The batter can then run unhindered over first, second and third base and finally score a run at home plate. This is then called a home run. If the ball is hit high and far, but not over the fence, there is a good chance it will be caught. With a catch the batter is out. So hitting the ball far away is not always best.
The pitcher throws the ball which the batter must try to catch. If the ball passes through the strike zone, it is considered a batted ball, i.e. one that can be hit. If it does not pass through the strike zone, it is a passed ball. The strike zone is an imaginary area perpendicular to home plate and between the bottom of the knee and the height of the shoulder (bottom of the shoulder blade) of the batsman, when he is in the playing position. If the pitcher throws three balls and the batter has not had a chance to hit the ball into the field, he is out. If the pitcher throws four balls, the batter has a walk. He may then run to first base, but may not be tagged out. Usually, the pitcher does not throw three batted balls or four balls of intent in a row. When two batted balls and three balls have been thrown, it is called a full count. Every next ball gives a decision. If it is a batted ball, it should be hit, but of course it can also be missed. In either case, the next batter takes his turn. If it is a full pitch, the batter has a free run and the next batter’s turn comes next. If the third ball is hit by the batter but is a foul ball, he may stay to try again. A foul ball is a ball that comes outside the lines of the field. If the third strike is a foul ball, it is not counted.
The base runners
When a team starts at bat, there are no players on base yet. If the first batter reaches first base on a good hit or because the pitcher has walked, he must run to second base when the second batter hits the ball into the field. If he were to stay put, there would be two players on first base and that is not allowed. In such a situation, the base runner has no choice but to walk and it is called a forced run. If all bases are occupied when the next batter is at bat, then it is a forced run situation for all base runners. If a home run is hit with three bases loaded, it is called a grandslam. The batter who hits the ball out of the field gives three base runners the opportunity to score a run. Because he also scores a run when he crosses home plate, the team scores four runs in one hit.
If the ball is hit into the field by the batter and the batter then reaches one of the bases, it is a base hit. If the batter reaches first base, it is a single. If he reaches second base, it is a double. If he reaches third base immediately, it is a triple. If he also manages to reach home plate safely in one go, this is called a home run.
For the defending team, a lot depends on the pitcher. If the pitcher throws good balls, there will be few hits and not many players from the opposing team will get on base. Pitcher and catcher work together to eliminate each batter by preventing hits. The catcher gives signs to the pitcher to make clear what kind of ball he thinks should be thrown. He chooses, for instance, from a hard ball (fastball), a curve ball, a slow ball (change-up) or a clear ball. He also indicates where in the batting cage he wants the ball to be hit. The pitcher will not always agree with the catcher’s proposal, and then you will see him shake his head briefly to say no. If the catcher gives a sign that the pitcher agrees with, he nods his head briefly. However, the ball is not always thrown the way it is meant to be thrown. If the pitcher does not pitch well, for whatever reason, the coach may decide to change him.
The catcher/secondary catcher
The catcher or backstop plays a very important role. As the only fielder, he has a good view of the whole field. He must therefore give instructions to the team at critical moments in the game. The catcher’s job is to stop all balls the pitcher throws, no matter how difficult. If the catcher lets a ball through, it usually means that the runners on the bases can advance at least one base. If there is a runner on third base when the ball is not stopped by the catcher, it often means a run for the opposing team by the runner reaching home plate safely. If the catcher catches the thrown ball and a base runner tries to run from first to second or from second to third, he must react very quickly. He then jumps up from his crouched position and in one smooth motion throws the ball hard to second or third base. The baseman can then try to tap out the base runner.
First, second and third baseman
The basemen are the infielders whose job it is to guard the bases. They must try to eliminate the base runners. This can be done by tapping out a base runner. If a fielder taps the base runner with the glove that holds the ball when the base runner is not in contact with a base, he is out. If there is a forced run, it is sufficient if the base runner taps the base with his foot before the runner reaches that base. The ball must be in the batter’s hand or glove. The base runner who is on first base when the next player on his team hits the ball into the field must run from first to second base. This is a forced run from first to second base. If the batted ball is handled well and reaches the second baseman very quickly, he only has to touch the base before the runner reaches it.
The basemen are not only in the field to guard their base. They, like all fielders, must try to catch the ball as soon as the opposing team drives it into the field. Therefore, the basemen stand away from their base when the opposing team starts to hit. The second baseman moves to a position between first and second base. The first and third baseman do not move more than a few feet away from their base. The base runner standing on first or second base will try to “steal a base” if the next base is not occupied. He will let go of his base and cautiously advance towards the next base. This is called “pulling”. The runner keeps a close eye on the pitcher, who has the ball at that moment. He waits for the pitcher to throw the ball to the catcher and then sprints to the next base. The pitcher will sometimes try to surprise the base runner. Just before throwing the ball to the catcher, the pitcher quickly turns around and throws the ball to the batter (this is called a pickoff). The batter then tries to tag out the base runner before he gets back to the base he just distanced himself from.
The short stop is the fielder standing between second and third base. He must try to stop the low balls that are hit between second and third base and preferably catch them. He must be very quick and not afraid of the ball. He has to be able to take a hit, because the balls often come at him hard and low. If the ball is hit hard across the ground, it is very difficult to stop it because it can jump in all directions due to unevenness in the field. If the shortstop stops the ball, he will almost certainly be able to throw the ball to the first baseman in time for him to strike out the batter who is trying to reach that base.
The far fielders
The far fielders or outfielders are the players who stand in the outfield. They must catch the balls that are hit over the infield. They must try to catch high balls directly. Any ball caught by a fielder is a forfeit to the opposing team. Once the fielder has caught the ball, he must throw it to one of the bases as quickly as possible to prevent the base runners from moving up a base. Only if there are no bases loaded and an outfielder catches the batted ball is there no need to hurry.
If there is no forced run, the base runner must be tagged out if he has no contact with a base. If he is in a forced run situation, he can of course be tagged out but not necessarily so. It is sufficient if an opposing player with the ball in his hand or glove touches the base with his foot before the runner reaches it. If the batter, after hitting the ball, runs to first base, he is always in a forced run situation. He has no choice but to run to first base. The first baseman, with one foot on the base and the glove open, is ready to catch the ball thrown to him by, for instance, the short stop. If he catches the ball before the batter can touch first base, the batter is out. By the way, the runner in that situation is allowed to advance on first base. This means that the runner trying to reach first base may run on for some time. As long as he has touched base. He cannot be tagged out while he is not touching the base. However, this is only allowed at first base. If the fielder loses the ball when tapping out, it means he was not really holding the ball. The runner is then safe.
The doubles is always very spectacular. An example: First base is occupied and the batter hits a low ball towards shortstop. The runner on first base has to move from first to second base. He is therefore in a forced run situation. The short stop takes the batted ball and throws it to the second baseman. The shortstop, holding the batted ball in his hand or glove, taps second base with his foot, which causes the runner coming from first base to be out, and then throws the ball at lightning speed to the first baseman. If the batter catches the ball and makes contact with the base before the batter gets there, the batter is out as well. The fielding team has then struck out two players.
Only the attacking side, the side at bat, can score runs. A batter who, after hitting the ball into the field, must always try to reach first base safely. Then he must try to reach home plate via the second and third bases. If he succeeds without being tagged out and before the ball has to be replaced, he scores a run. Each subsequent batter who reaches home plate from first, second and third base scores a run. The fielding team defends itself in many ways. It starts with the pitcher. The pitcher tries to throw the ball in such a way that the batter is unable to hit it away. If the pitcher throws three batted balls at the first batter but the batter has no chance to hit the ball properly, that batter is out. There is then one out. Every fly ball is also a zero and also every player who gets put out on base is a zero. If there are three outs, the game is changed.
A game lasts nine innings. An inning is over when both teams have batted once. Such a game of nine innings lasts on average 3 hours. Youth games are shorter, there are agreements on playing a certain time. Aspirants play for example one and a half hours.2018officielespelregelshonkbal