The Basics of Baseball
Baseball is a game played by two teams, with each team having nine innings in which they attempt to score runs. The home team always bats second (the "bottom" of the inning) and the visiting team always bats in the "top" of the inning.
In each inning the batting team sends one player, known as the hitter or batter, in turn, to bat (known as an "at bat"), until three hitters are "out", whilst the pitching team have nine players on the field trying to prevent them scoring. If the scores are tied at the end of nine innings, a tenth is played, and if necessary an eleventh, and a twelfth, and so on (both halves of the extra inning have to be completed before the game is resolved, if both teams score a run in the tenth, then an eleventh is played, etc). There are no ties in Baseball.
A run is scored by a runner reaching home base, having first touched first, second and third base. Only one runner is allowed on any one base at any one time.
Each team only has nine players "on the field" at any one time, but are normally made up of twenty five players (the rest are substitutes). A substitute may be brought into the game at any time (whether because of injury, fatigue, or tactical reasons), but once a player is replaced by a substitute then he is not allowed to return to the game.
The infield is a square, but is known as a "diamond", and has a base (first base, second base, third base and home base) at each corner. Each base is 90 feet away from the next. In the middle of the diamond, 60.5 feet away from home plate is the pitchers mound.
Beyond the diamond is the outfield, which is normally surrounded by a wall, between 325 and 450 feet away from the home plate. There are also two "foul lines" which extend to the wall from the first base and third base lines, and at the end of each foul line where it meets the outside wall, there's a huge "foul pole" to show which long hits are fair and which are foul.
The area between the first and third base lines, and the outfield wall is known as "fair territory".
One of the fielding players, known as a "pitcher" stands on the pitching mound and throws the ball to the hitter who stands at home plate. The hitter tries to put the ball into play by hitting it inside the foul lines (the ball must go in front of first or third base and first land inside the foul lines) and then running to first base without being tagged out. He can stop at first base if he wishes, or continue to second, third or home base.
If a hitter stops on a base (becoming a "base runner"), then he can advance again when the next hitter is "at bat". Thus any time you see a hitter put the ball into play, you'll not only see him running, but any team-mates on other bases running as well.
If a hitter manages to hit the ball over the outfield wall (a "Home Run") then he, and any other base-runners automatically advance to home base.
Any time a runner manages to reach home base, he scores a run.
The fielding team can get a hitter out in one of several ways:-
Flied Out - The hitter hits the ball and a fielder catches it without the ball bouncing. A ball doesn't have to be in "fair territory" to be caught - some of the most spectacular plays see fielders catch the ball as they fall into the stands, the dugouts, or at the outfield wall, fielders reaching over the wall and catching a ball and preventing a "home run".
Slightly curiously, if a hitter makes slight contact with the ball and the catcher still manages to snare it (a "foul tip") it doesn't count as a catch, but is simply counted as a strike (which may be the third strike).
Put Out - The fielding side can "put out" a runner by touching him with the ball when he isn't standing on a base. In certain circumstances they don't even have to "tag" the runner - if he's forced to run towards a base because a runner behind his is running towards his, a fielder can simply touch the the base whilst holding the ball and the runner is "forced out".
Strike Out - When the pitcher throws the ball, he has to throw it in the "strike zone", or have the hitter swing and miss it. The strike zone is above the hitter's knees, below the mid point of his waist and shoulders, and over the "home plate" (which is 17 inches wide). If a pitcher can throw three strikes the hitter is "struck out".
It's also a strike if the hitter swings at a pitch and misses (even if the pitch is outside the zone) or if he hits a "foul ball" (a hit which doesn't go inside the two foul lines). However, a "foul ball" cannot be a third strike.
If a hitter doesn't swing at a pitch, and the pitch isn't in the strike zone then it's known as a "ball". If a hitter receives four balls, then he gets a free "walk" to first base (also known as a "base on balls").
Ending an Inning
An inning comes to an end when the fielding team have got three hitters (or runners) out. The two teams swap over and the fielding team take their turn to bat, and the hitting team take their turn to field.
At the end of nine innings, the team with the most runs win!