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Pitching and batting The batting area
The field Officials
Types of pitch Equipment
Playing positions Glossary

The baseball field

The baseball field


History of the game

Objective: Baseball is played by two teams of nine players. The object of the game is to hit the ball and score runs by running around the four bases in turn.

Baseball as a game is essentially very similar to Softball, and to a lesser extent, Rounders.

The defensive side try to get the ball back to the bases to get the opposing players out. Each team has nine innings, and the team which has scored most runs at the end of the nine innings wins.

An innings lasts until three players on the batting side are out. Extra innings are played if the teams are level on runs at the end of nine innings. The extra innings are played on a sudden-death basis, where the game ends as soon as one team has lost an innings.


Pitching and batting

Most runs are scored by players running from base to base, although if the player runs all the way around the bases to the home base (fourth base, home plate), they have scored a home run, also called a homer.

When a player runs after hitting the ball, all players on bases advance.

The pitcher (the player on the defensive team who throws the ball to the batter) has to observe certain rules when pitching. The ball must be pitched into the strike zone.

The strike zone is the area between the batter's knees and armpits. The ball must go into this area to give the batter a fair chance of hitting it.

If the ball is not pitched into the strike zone and the batter does not swing at it, the umpire will call a ball.

The pitcher may pitch up to three balls. If the fourth pitch is also a ball, the batter may proceed to first base without hitting it. This is called a walk. If there are other players on bases, they also advance. In this case there is no chance of any of them being put out.

The batter also has a set number of chances. These are called strikes. If a legal ball is pitched, and one of the following happens, that is a strike. The batter does not have to try and hit every ball (they may allow a strike against them). A batter may have two strikes against them. On the third, they are out.

- the batter swings at the pitch and misses

- the ball goes into the strike zone whether the batter tries to hit it or not

- the ball touches the batter as they swing

- the ball touches the batter within the strike zone

- the batter plays a foul tip, where the ball is hit into the hands of the catcher

- a bunted ball is played into foul territory

- the ball is played into foul territory

Note that if the ball is played (not bunted) into foul territory, the player is not out if they have already had two strikes against them.

If the batter successfully hits the ball into fair territory, they drop the bat and run to first base, and further if they can. The fielders on the bases will try and retrieve the ball and make contact with the base before the runner (who was the batter) gets there. If the fielder succeeds, the runner is out, otherwise, the runner can occupy that base.

Runners on bases do not have to wait for the pitch to be made before they run. They can try to get to the next base anyway. This is called a steal. Obviously if they are seen doing this and the fielders are quick enough to tag them or the base, they are out.

The defensive team can put out more than one player from one play. If a fielder makes a tag and throws the ball to another fielder in time for them to make a tag also, then it would be called a double play or triple play depending on whether two or three players are put out in one go.

Players out
There are several ways a player can be out in baseball.

- Three strikes against them

- if they hit a ball into the air (a fly ball) and it is caught by a fielder, whether the ball is in fair or foul territory

- a runner can be tagged (if the fielder touches the runner with the ball or with the hand or glove holding the ball), or the base they are running to can be tagged. The base must be tagged by a fielder. If the ball simply hits the base, it does not count

- the batter must have both feet within the batter's box when the ball is hit - see diagram

- the batter hits an infield fly

The infield fly rule
An infield fly is a fair fly ball (not including a line drive or an attempted bunt) which can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort, when first and second, or first, second and third bases are occupied, before two players are out.

The umpire would call 'infield fly' to notify the players. The batter who hit it would then be out, regardless of whether the ball was caught or not.

This is because when a batter hits the ball, they have to run for base. If the catcher deliberately dropped the ball, the batter would have to run, and so would the players on the other bases. This would give the fielding team the possibility of a double play or triple play.

Rules for strikes
A player is not out after three strikes if the catcher does not catch the ball after the third strike only if:

- the first base is unoccupied

- the first base is occupied, with two players out on the batting team

Rules for bases
If a runner leaves their base when a ball has been hit which becomes a foul ball, they must return to their original base. They cannot be put out.

When batting, the bat should be held over the home base.

If a runner leaves their base when a fly ball has been caught, they must return to their original base. They can be put out when returning.

If a runner tries to steal a base, the fielder must tag the runner, not the base, to get them out.

When running between bases, runners must run close to the lines within a distance of 0.9 metres (3 feet), unless they are running around a fielder.

If the base is moved, the runner must aim for the original position of the base. A fielder cannot put a player out by tagging the base in its new position.

When a batter hits the ball, all runners advance and if there are runs scored, the runs are credited to the player who hit the ball, aswell as the player who has made it all the way around, although each run scored counts as one.

The baseball field

The field diagram

The baseball field. The red lines signify the foul lines.

The field outside the foul lines along the edges of the baseball field counts as foul territory. The area inside the foul lines counts as fair territory.

If a player hits a ball into foul territory, this counts as a strike. Unless that player has already had two strikes called against them, in which case it would not be a strike. If the player bunts the ball into foul territory, even if two strikes have been called, it counts as a strike.

Q: If a fly ball is hit into fair territory and it hits the ground and then goes out into foul territory, is it a fair or a foul ball?

A: If the ball lands on the ground between home and first, or home and third base, and then goes into foul territory in front of first or third base, without hitting a fielder or an umpire, it is a foul ball. If it first lands on or beyond first or third base in fair territory, then goes into foul territory, it is a fair hit.

Types of pitch

Bean ball
An illegal pitch, aimed straight at the batter's head.

Change up
The pitcher throws a slow ball with the same action as a fast ball

At the moment of releasing the ball, the pitcher twists the wrist, so it flies towards the pitcher from right to left for a right-handed batter, left to right for a left-handed batter, and dips just before reaching the batter.

The ball is pitched in a fast straight line, and usually travel slightly downwards, as the home plate is slightly lower than the pitching mound.

This pitch does not spin in flight, but it turns as the air picks up on the seams of the ball. It will usually slide as it reaches the batter.

Quick return pitch
An illegal pitch, where the pitcher throws the ball to the batter as soon as it is recieved from the catcher.

The opposite of a curveball. It curves from left to right for a right-handed batter, and from right to left for a left-handed batter.

The ball is pitched similarly to the curveball, and looks to the batter like a fastball, but that it slows and dips as it reaches the batter.

Split-fingered fastball
Similar to the fastball, but held slightly differently. It travels fast towards the batter, and dips sharply on reaching the home plate.

Pitching rules
An illegal act by the pitcher is called a balk. If a balk is called, all runners advance one base. If there are no runners on bases, a ball is called. These are pitching offences.

- the back foot of the pitcher must be on the pitcher's plate (also called the rubber) when they pitch.

- the pitcher must face any base they are throwing to.

- the ball hits the batter outside the strike zone.

- an illegal pitch, like a bean ball or a quick return pitch.

- pitches a spitball, a ball with dirt or any other substance on it to alter its flight.

A relief pitcher (pitcher who replaces the original pitcher in a game) is allowed up to eight warm-up pitches when first at the (pitching) mound.

Playing positions

It is worth noting that batting players play in rotation.

For example, if the innings ends with player 4 being put out, that team restart batting with player 5. If the innings ends with player 7 being put out, player 8 is next to bat when their team bats again.

Defensive players are divided into two categories, infielders, and outfielders. The diagram below is a example arrangement of how the fielding team might position themselves.

Fielding positions
1 - Pitcher
Delivers the ball to the batters.

2 - Catcher
Catches strike balls, and advises pitcher what type of pitch to use, by making hand signals as the pitcher is preparing to throw the ball.

3 - First base
Has the most balls thrown to them than any other base player, and tags out runners from the home plate.

4 - Second base
Stands nearer to first base than third, because the shortstop covers the area between second and third base.

5 - Third base
Throws the ball to either the pitcher or other base players, and tags players out generally less than the other bases.

6 - Shortstop
Retrieves a lot of balls, tags runners, and throws to base players.

7 - Left fielder
Has to be quick at getting balls, and returning them to base players.

8 - Centre fielder
Has to be quick at getting balls, and returning them to base players.

9 - Right fielder
Has to be quick at getting balls, and returning them to base players.

The batting area

The batting area. HB - Home base.


There are four umpires on the field, and it is their responsibility to see that the rules of the game are followed.

Home plate umpire
Also known as the umpire-in-chief: calls balls and strikes, keeps a note of the score, and team changes.

The other umpires may take any position on the field, which can provide them with a clear view of play, and a good view of the base that they are responsible for, and that runners keep within 90 centimetres (three feet) of the lines.

First base umpire
Guards the first base, and is responsible for checking that runners reach the base properly, or if a successful tag is made. The first base umpire also watches whether right-handed batters make full or half swings at the ball, which assists the plate umpire in calling a ball or a strike.

Second base umpire
Stands between second and third base.

Third base umpire
Stands about 2.5 to 3 metres (8 to 10 feet) behind third base. The third base umpire also judges whether a left-handed batter has made a full or half swing at the ball.


The ball
The ball is round, with a circumference (distance around) of 22.8 to 23.4 centimetres (9 to 9 and a quarter inches) and it weighs 141.7 to 148.8 grammes (5 to 5 and a quarter ounces). It is made of yarn wound around a core or cork or rubber, and covered in white horse or cowhide, with two red seams along it like a tennis ball.

The bat
The bat is a smooth rounded stick, with a maximum length of 1.07 metres (3 feet 6 inches). It is thicker at the top than at the handle part. 6.9 centimetres (2 and three quarter inches) is the maximum width of the bat at the top.

The handle may have a cover on it (like tape or cloth) to help grip which can extend only 45.7 centimetres (18 inches) up the bat, although players can wear a glove if they wish instead. The bat is made of wood (ash) or stressed aluminium, although aluminium bats are not allowed in Major League baseball.

The bases
The second, third and fourth bases are usually made of a canvas bag secured to the ground, filled with a soft material. They are 38.1 centimetres (15 inches) square, and 7.62 to 12.7 centimetres (3 to 5 inches) thick.

The home base is a five sided piece of hard rubber set into the ground, 43.18 centimetres (17 inches) wide, and 43.18 centimetres (17 inches) long at its widest point. The pitcher has an area of play called the pitchers mound.

It is a circle with a 2.74 metre (9 feet) radius. It is 25.4 centimetres (10 inches) above the level of the home plate. At the top of the mound there is a plate known as the pitchers plate, and it is made of hard white rubber. It measures 60.96 centimetres (24 inches) by 15.24 centimetres (6 inches).


Base on balls - when a batter recieved four balls and is entitled to an automatic walk to first base

Bottom of the 1st, 2nd... the second half of the innings

Breaking ball - when the ball changes direction in the air

Batting average - the number of hits divided by number of times a player has batted. It is always calculated to three decimal places (for example .123)

Bunt - the ball is tapped gently into the infield

Designated hitter - where a player bats instead of the pitcher, and does not field

Double - when a batter reaches second base from one hit

Double header - two scheduled matches played one after the other

Earned run average - the number of runs scored compared to how many innings a pitcher has pitched for

Error - when a fielder makes a mistake that would normally have put a runner out

Fake - a pitcher pretends to pitch but turns to try and stop a runner from stealing base

Force play - when a batter becomes a runner, so all runners are forced to advance

Grand slam - when a batter scores a home run with a player on each base, scoring four runs in one go

Ground ball - a batted ball that travels along or close to the ground

Line drive - a ball hit hard in a straight line

Loaded base - when a base is occupied

No hitter - when the pitcher has not given any runs away

Pinch hitter - substitute batter

RBI - runs batted in, where players are credited with runs scored as a result of their hit, whether they run or other players do. All players concerned are credited with runs

Retouch - when a batter returns to base

Run down - when the defensive team puts out a runner between bases, also called 'caught in the hot box'

Safe - an umpire call when a runner has made a base

Single - when a batter reaches first base from one hit

Squeeze play - when a team has a runner on third base they can score that runner by the batter playing a bunt

Switch hitter - when a batter can hit the ball using either hand

Tie game - a game that is level after the ordinary number of innings

Top of the 1st, 2nd... the first half of an innings

Triple - when a batter reaches third base from one hit

Wild pitch - a pitch too high, low or wide for the catcher to catch

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