Baseball is often considered an American sport, but historians cannot agree on its origins. Is it from the Czech Republic, cricket, an Egyptian or Russian sport? Still, in 1846, a derivative of the English sport called “roundus”, which resembles present-day baseball, appeared in the United States.
The first professional players’ association was founded in the United States in 1871. Baseball was first played mainly in the United States, but it was first exported to the rest of America before coming to Europe and Asia during the two World Wars. It was even to become the most popular sport in Japan…
Before becoming an official Olympic sport in 1992, baseball was presented seven times as a demonstration sport at the Games (1912, 1936, 1952, 1956, 1964, 1984, 1988). In order to reduce the gap between Cuba, winner of the two titles at stake since Barcelona, and the other teams, professional players have been allowed to represent their country since the Sydney Games in 2000.
The baseball field looks like a quarter circle with a 100-meter radius. At the corner of the field, buried in the ground, is a 40-centimetre-wide slab, called marble, at the corner of the field as a reminder of the material from which it was cut. Today, all these “marbles” are made of plastic. On either side of the marble are two rectangles (drummer’s slabs) 1.22m wide and 1.82m long. In B, is the pitcher’s mound (mount), it is 18.40m from the marble and has a radius of 2.75m, it is 30 centimetres higher than the rest of the ground. This is where the launcher will be placed. C1, C2, C3 correspond respectively to bases 1, 2, and 3. Each base is materialized by a small cushion (40 cm ‘ 40 cm). The attacking baseball player must make the “home and away” circuit through bases 1, 2, and 3. He turns counter-clockwise. Any ball thrown to the right of the H-E line or to the left of the H-F line is considered a fall-ball. On the other hand, the ball thrown beyond the E-F line (home run) gives a point to all the attackers present on the field.
The baseball field consists of three parts
- The diamond: square of 27,40m side (H-C1-C2-C3) delimits the inner field.
- The outer field: the surface between the diamond and the fence of the field.
- The home-run area: beyond the fence.
The Baseball Players and Their Position on the Field
A baseball team is composed of nine players plus an unlimited number of substitutes. With less than nine players, the team is eliminated. Unlike all other games, the two teams are not on the field at the same time, one team is on the field for defence, the other stays on the bench and sends one player at a time, for the “attack” shot, according to a pre-established order. In fact, the 2 baseball teams play against each other for 9 innings (inning) with 2 phases of play each. In the first phase, one of the two teams is in defense while the other is in attack, and in the second phase, the roles are reversed.
In red are the positions of the defenders:
- R: Receiver (Catcher): He is positioned behind home plate and his role is to catch the balls thrown by his teammate (the pitcher) and missed by the opposing attacker, he also acts as an advisor to the pitcher. He is characterized by his equipment (chest protector, face shield, and large round glove), which is necessary when we know that the best baseball pitchers have ball speeds exceeding 160 km/h. His receiving position is crouched. He is also the conductor and the last rampart of defence, as he protects home plate.
- L: Pitcher: He is positioned on the mound, he has a double role. The first, is to throw the ball in play toward the attacker; the second, to catch all the balls that are sent into his field area. He is the pivot of the defence, because on his throw will depend the effectiveness of the opponent’s attack and defence.
- 1, 2, 3: 1st, 2nd, 3rd base: They are the direct defenders of bases, their role is to defend the zone surrounding their base, the 2nd base and the short stop possibly sharing the responsibility of the second base.
- A: Short stop: The short stop is a key position in the defence because the majority of balls are hit in its direction. It serves as a support to both second and third bases.
- G, C, D: Left field, center field and right field: these three players are in charge of the defense of the outfield; they are posted at the back of the field. They are generally very fast because they have a very important surface to cover. They all have a fairly strong arm, which is a prerequisite to send the balls back to their teammates at bases 1, 2 and 3.
All defenders have large leather gloves to receive the ball. Only the catcher’s glove is slightly different from the others.
They are spread out so as to cover the whole field and to find themselves as quickly as possible on the ball that is going to be hit. It is in fact a question of squaring the field well.
The attackers come one after the other into the “batting box”, to send the ball back, using a bat. The other forwards wait their turn on the bench.
- The batter: on one of the plates on either side of home plate, depending on whether he is right or left handed. He holds a wooden or turned aluminium instrument bat not more than 1.06m long. He also has a reinforced protective helmet that protects the ear facing the pitcher. Players usually use very thin gloves to dampen vibrations when hitting the ball.
- Runners: The base runners, the attackers on the bases, are necessarily batters who have previously managed to return a ball. Attackers are at most one per base.
- The main referee: Places himself behind the receiver. Like him, he has a reinforced suit and a mask. He is the ball judge (he judges the strikes) and judges the forwards’ passage to home plate (scoring).
- 2 base umpires: usually one in the first base area, the other in the third base area. They determine the elimination or not of the runners on the bases.
THE OUTFIT OF THE BASEBALL
The baseball outfit includes :
- The cap: mandatory to play baseball. An essential role, on long balls, on sunny days.
- The jersey: short sleeves. Very wide cut for easy movement.
- The undershirt: it is simply a sweatshirt that is placed under the jersey when the weather is cool.
- Pants: special cut, white colour. It stops at mid-calf.
- The socks: they must be high (football type) and white.
- The stockings: attributes specific to baseball players. They are in the team colours.
- Shoes: special, they are called spike. The spikes are replaced by metal blades. You can play very well with football shoes with moulded spikes.
Whether one is attacking or defending, the attributes are different. In defence, for example, players must wear the cap and glove. The glove must be adapted to the size of the player and his position in the field. It is made of leather and is placed in the hand opposite the “strong” arm. Example: a right-handed player puts the glove on with his left hand.
Among the defenders, only the wrestler is dressed differently, or rather protected. His clothing includes a protective helmet, a mask (to protect the face), a gagerin (for the neck), a protective vest (breastplate), leggings and a shell (mandatory).
The baseball player’s outfit is very special. It is an integral part of American folklore. This does not prevent it from being regulated and very strictly controlled. Players on the same team are forced to wear exactly the same outfit.
THE OUTFIT OF THE FORWARDS
The helmet: essential for the protection of the player. It is made of plastic and covers the ears (one or two, depending on…). In France, it is classic to protect both ears, whereas in the United States, professional players prefer to protect only one to better hear the other.
The bat: exists in wood or aluminium, and in different shapes depending on whether you play baseball or softball (mixed). Originally, they were all made of wood. American pros still use them today, but they require a very high level of maintenance, almost on a daily basis. Maintenance that does not exist with aluminium bats, which are stronger but much less flexible. The size of the bat varies according to the category (cadets or seniors). Attackers are batted in a carefully established order according to their skill and pure strength. It is not uncommon to see in first position a skilful player, very safe but perhaps less powerful than the others. All this is just tactics. In the same vein, the coach is careful to interpose right and left handed players in order to destabilize the opposing defenders. Defenders who, moreover, know the positions of the attackers, which positions have been previously registered on the “line-up” (batting order) given at the beginning of the match to the referee and the opposing team.
It is a game of speed and skill and is close to the theque and English cricket in its playing principles. It is played in the summer, from the beginning of April to the beginning of October; it is therefore, in a country like France, the only team sport played in the summer. It is unique among the great collective games for three reasons. Firstly, it does not involve the notion of a ball or ball trying to get into a goal or a basket. Second, it does not involve time, as it is about giving each team an equal number of scoring opportunities. Thirdly, while players play as a team during the defensive phase, they play the attacking (batting) phase one after the other as an individual sport.
Baseball can be identified with a duel between the pitcher, aided by eight teammates on the defensive field, and a batter who tries to hit the pitcher’s balls with his bat. The batter stands at the base of a right angle drawn on the field and defining the “legal field”. His objective is to return the pitcher’s balls from the opposing team to the legal field. The pitcher is 18.50m from the batter. The pitcher’s objective is to deceive the batter by the speed (up to 150 kilometres per hour) and the effects he gives to his pitches. If the batter returns the ball to the legal field, he must reach a base before the ball he hit is returned to that base by the defending team. If he fails to do so (or if he fails to hit a certain number of pitches) he is said to be “Out” by the opposing team and the next batter in “Batting Order” takes over. He also tries to get to base while advancing the runner(s) already on base. Any runner who manages to return home (with the help of his teammates at bat, or by stealing one or more bases) scores a point for his team. When the defending team has made three outs, the teams change roles: the batting team goes out on the field (defending) and vice versa.
THE STRIKE ZONE
In baseball, the batter must hit the ball sent by the opposing pitcher, to send it into the field, out of reach of the defenders, in order to run on the bases. The balls sent to him can be good or bad, depending on whether or not they are thrown into the “strike zone”. This is a starting point for the game.
The pitcher must throw the ball above home plate, at a height between the knees and armpits of the opposing batter. This imaginary rectangle is called the “strike zone”.
When a ball passes through the strike zone and the batter “lets” the ball pass or tries to hit it but fails to do so, the umpire calls a “strike”. After three successive strikes, the batter is “out” and put out of play.
THE “BASE ON BALL”
If the pitcher does not throw the ball into the strike zone and the batter does not try to hit it, the umpire calls a “ball”. When the number of foul balls (balls) – even if alternating with strikes – reaches the number “4”, the batter wins first base, without having to hit .
Only one man on the field is capable and accredited to determine if the ball is properly sent into the strike zone. The umpire, whose role is crucial, without him, no game is possible, no matter how friendly it may be. The umpire is positioned in the pitcher’s axis, just behind the wrestler, hence reinforced protection (comparable to that of the wrestler).
If the ball is thrown into the strike zone, and has been missed by the batter, the umpire calls “strike”. He shouts it and signals it with his right hand.
Before each pitch, the umpire informs the pitcher of his count against the batter in place.
If the batter misses the ball for the third time, the umpire calls “strike-out”. The batter is out.
The pitcher is the key position on a baseball team. In the United States, they are true idols. It is also not uncommon to see in a team of forty players, twenty pitchers. This idolatry is easily understood when we know that the pitcher is located on a mound, 18.44 m from the batter and that he must send the ball into an imaginary rectangle forty centimeters wide and sixty centimeters high. This is already a first performance. The second is to send it with enough force and effect to put the drummer in trouble.
With his glove, the pitcher camouflages the way he holds the ball, to surprise the drummer even more.
The Striker at Bat
Attacker at bat is the waiting position. We know the ball’s going to arrive at the same place (strike zone). It’s the most interesting move in baseball. Kicking a ball is within everyone’s reach. But, the more intense the practice of this sport, the more we realize that the batter’s gesture is technical. After a few years of practice, the batter can determine the trajectory of the ball. We will see later that it can be a tactic generated by the coach. Because it is usually the coach who tells the batter which trajectory to take the ball.
3 Types of Trajectory:
- The “fly” : a movement of the bat from bottom to top will give the ball a parabolic trajectory.
- The ” line drive “: a rectilinear movement parallel to the ground will give the ball a very tight trajectory.
- The “grounder”: an up and down movement of the bat will precipitate the ball on the ground which will roll.
- The running attacker
Once the batter has touched the ball, the batter must complete a base bound lap and return to home plate. The better the hit, the longer the run. On his run, he may be eliminated at any time by a defensive player in possession of the ball. Only the bases are a refuge. Therefore, before leaving it, he must make sure he can reach the next one. Any attacker who has made a round of the circuit scores a point for his team. If the batter has hit very hard to go beyond the limits (out of reach of the defenders), he is said to have made a home run. In this way, he scores a point and makes all his teammates on the field score a point.
Once the batter has struck, the defence must quickly grab the ball and try to eliminate the batter, who is running on the track, by touching him with the hand in possession of the ball. The defender therefore wears a glove that protects the hand, because the ball is hard and this object gives a larger surface area for grasping the ball. The second task of the defender will be to return the ball to his teammate who is closest to the runner.
Note: To make a strong and accurate defence throw, the ball should be grasped with three fingers with the index and middle fingers above and the thumb below, like a sugar tongs.
The Principle of Elimination
We have seen that the batter must hit the ball thrown by the opposing pitcher and then run on the bases. If he manages to run around the square without being eliminated, that player scores a point. So the defenders will try to eliminate him. When 3 attackers have been eliminated, the roles are reversed, the defenders become attackers and vice versa. There are several ways to eliminate an attacker:
- The “stikeout”: when a ball passes through the strike zone and the batter “lets” the ball pass or tries to hit it but fails to do so, the umpire calls a “strike”. After 3 successive strikes, the batter is eliminated (out) and put out of play;
- A runner may be out when he is tagged off base by a defensive player with the ball in his hand;
- The batter is out when the ball is caught on the fly by a defensive player without the ball touching the ground;
- When the ball is volleyed, the batter is out and all runners are out if they do not return to their home base;
- A fundamental rule in baseball: there cannot be two attackers on the same base. Therefore, the attacker must free the base for the batter who follows. It is said that he is “forced” to go to the next base. In this case, the defender does not have to touch the runner to eliminate him; he only has to touch the base with his foot, ball in hand ;
- When there is no “forced play”, the defender may eliminate the attacker by touching the runner.
- When there is no “force play”, the defender may eliminate the attacker by touching the attacker. The elimination in “force play” allows the defender to act faster and therefore allows him to eliminate two or even three attackers on the same action. It is called double or triple play.
Baseball and other contact sports make use of large bats with large diameter. A baseball or other major contact sport is an activity that involves a heavy strike, with maximum speed of the bat coming into play. This means that when playing baseball with a heavy bat, there are all the possibilities of bodily injury. Most baseball players and enthusiasts have different opinions on the problem of concussions in contact sports, but all agree that concussions can be very damaging to a player’s overall health.
Football and other sports equipment companies provide helmets that provide for the protection of the head of the baseball player from the high impact of a baseball hitting the face. The most important thing is the fact that a baseball doesn’t stop with the force of the blow. As the ball is traveling at full speed, the velocity of the ball can cause tremendous forces to the skull. To ensure that a baseball doesn’t cause serious damage to the brain, the MLB outlawed using bat that are over one inch in diameter.
Baseballs have become one of the most popular games played all over the world. They come in many shapes and sizes. Even though baseball is played in a domestic league, in most cases, baseballs come in both hard plastic and soft plastic varieties. Some players are adamant in their position to avoid the use of any soft plastic baseballs because they are believed to be more prone to “micrometeoroid” (meteorites) which can cause serious damage to the skull. Softball pitchers often use baseballs with a very thick shell. These batters often cause serious damage to pitchers who lack the necessary knowledge and skill to deal with the very heavy ball.