The strangest thing about Baseball is that it’s not going to be so strange anymore.
Like most people reading this I had never seen a game of Baseball before September 2nd 2018. I was on my honeymoon in New York and doing the tick-off my bucket list ideas most people do while visiting the Big Apple. Day 2 go watch a baseball game with the wife in the Bronx, I spent the afternoon watching the New York Yankees lose an exciting game 7 – 11 to the Detroit Tigers and I was hooked.
Now the thing that separates Baseball from most sports is they play almost every day during the season 162 games in around 6 months from late March to early October to be exact (this becomes even more if you make the playoffs). The strange thing is that the number of games they play makes the sport so much more relaxing to watch as even the best teams in Baseball only win around 2 out of 3 games so when you watch as a fan and your team loses you don’t get the same feelings as you would watching your football team lose as the thought is ….. well there is always tomorrow. As with all sports however, once you have a team you will find yourself hooked.
So Why Now?
So before we look at the fundamentals of what has now become my favourite sport let’s look at the evidence it will grow in this country and why now is a great time to pick a team to follow. On October 28th 2007 the NFL (American Football) had their first UK game at Wembley Stadium as the New York Giants beat the Miami Dolphins 13-10 starting the now multi games per year deal that this country now has. The sport has grown massively during this time with 1000s of Superbowl parties held up and down the country and the level of fandom has grown so high that there have been talks about a new NFL franchise starting in London such is the demand.
Baseball has followed this trend now and MLB (Major League Baseball) now has the London series where different teams play a series of matches each year at The London Stadium. This year the World Series which is basically the culmination and final of each Baseball season which crowns the ultimate winner was shown on BBC Red Button making it the first time in history that baseball’s flagship competition has ever been available for free. MLB is putting a lot of money into the promotion and expansion of the game in this country which means going forward it will become more accessible than ever.
Baseball is as easy or as complex as you want to make it and far too nuanced to explain in one article, I have probably watched over 600 games now and still pick up things that are new to me nearly every game. Like any sport, some games are great some games not so much, but the aims are always the same essentially score more runs than your opponent.
Each team starts with 10 players per side 9 outfield (or position players) and a starting pitcher. Each game consists of 9 innings per side (this can extend if there is a tie after 9 innings as American sports don’t do draws) and each inning goes on until 3 batters are out.
As stated in the name the aim is to hit the ball from a pitch and be able to run around the four diamond-shaped bases each 90 feet apart without being out. Essentially a more advanced version of rounders you would play in school as a child. Scoring however can get a lot more fun if a team say has a man on 1st base and 3rd base and the next hitter gets a home run the team will score 3 runs on that play.
The beauty of a home run
There is little more fun in sports than watching a Baseball getting crushed 100mph or more out of the field of play into the crowd and watching a free-for-all of fans trying to keep that ball as a souvenir for life. This is a home run, occasionally and only a few players in the game have the power to hit a home run that will clear the crowds and exit the stadium one of the beauties of the sport is that rival fans who will often sit together all stand up in unison and cheer this feat. As stated before fans come to the game to have fun and enjoy the spectacle.
He’s Outta there
As satisfying as it is for a hitter to clear the field for a home run its just as if not more so for a pitcher to go through the game without conceding any hits or runs. To get a player out he can either be struck out which means he concedes 3 strikes (which I will go into later) be caught out when he hits a ball in play or can be ran out where a ball is thrown to the closest base to the runner without him having his foot on the base. You can also be out if you get tagged (by the player’s catching glove) with your feet off base when attempting to steal a base (moving between bases when you are not hitting).
As you would imagine the phrase three strikes and your out comes from Baseball so let’s explain a strike. The strike zone is an imaginary square where theoretically a hitter would be able to hit the ball if a pitch is pitched in this area. If a ball is pitched where its not possible to hit this is called a ball. If the hitter does not attempt to hit the ball in the strike zone or hits the ball and it lands in foul territory basically not in the field of play this is a strike. For the final strike a foul ball out of play does not count the pitcher needs to throw a genuine ball that beats the hitter.
So going back to a ball then as I mentioned before if a pitch does not go in the strike zone and the hitter makes no attempt to make a swing at the ball he receives a ball if the pitcher pitches 4 balls in one at-bat before a hit in play the hitter automatically goes to 1st base. Sometimes this is done intentionally if a team does not want to pitch against a player in form this is called an intentional walk.
Positional play – So where do the players play?
So, the players will hit in the same sequence of 9 all game when the 9th hitter hits its goes back to the first one you can’t have your best players just constantly hit so players will have on average 3 to 5 hits or at plate appearances per game. Only 8 will play in the field though 1 player is the DH or designated hitter, so his only job is to hit for that game. 4 of the 8 players will play on the bases a fielder on 1st base 2nd base 3rd base and shortstop. Shortstop is where a player fields on the line between 2nd and 3rd base hoping to scoop up balls to run a player out in play. We then have the catcher often his job is to catch the pitch and dictate to the pitcher what type of pitch to throw in the sequence. Then we have the 3 outfielders one that plays left field, one right and one in centre hoping to catch or retrieve balls put in play past the base running track.
Let me Pitch
A starting Pitcher will only pitch once every 5 or so days depending on the schedule as otherwise, their arms would just suffer constant injuries due to the nature of the around 100mph pitches they constantly throw and the damage it does to the body. If a pitcher is having a good game he would look to throw around 100 pitches if he isn’t it would be down to the bullpen. The bullpen or relief pitchers come on towards the end of the game sometimes intended just to go through one innings. These pitchers can sometimes pitch in multiple days as their job is just to take out some of hitters and not designed to be in for the long haul. Then we have the closer that is designed to pitch the last innings of the game a pressure position as these can be the innings that decide the game. There is only a certain type of pitcher that can normally handle this pressure so finding a good closer can be the difference between winning and losing.
Most of what I’ve explained will only make full sense if you start watching games but in turn to make the game more accessible in this country, MLB has introduced new rules that make the game faster and slicker to watch. Bases are now larger so it encouraged more players to attempt to steal base also from the 2023 season a pitch clock was introduced so a pitcher has to pitch a pitch every 15 seconds (20 if other batters are on base). This has made the games much shorter and less delays and quite frankly more fun to watch.
Which team should I pick?
So if you going to start watching it is much more fun if you have a horse in the race so here are a few suggestions of teams to watch out for:
Atlanta Braves – A solid core of great players on long-term contracts who know how to play together
Baltimore Orioles – They have loads of young up-and-coming players that should develop well in the next few years
New York Mets – They have a multi-billionaire fan owner who will in the next few years spend more money than any in the history of Baseball to win at all costs
New York Yankees – They have arguably baseballs best hitter and pitcher in Aaron Judge and Gerrit Cole and need to rebuild after a terrible 2023
Texas Rangers – The current World Series champions who won it for the 1st time in their history in 2023
If you would like to know more contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org
Or to find your closest place to play go to https://www.baseballsoftballuk.com/finder