I recently had a chance to attend a ball game with a group of guys who grew up in India and Iraq. None of them had ever seen a baseball game before! I had simply taken for granted that the entire world shared my love and enthusiasm for the game. The challenge came when I had to start with the very basics of the game and share with these men a brief synopsis of the game. I called the lesson Baseball 101.
Here is a summary of what I shared with just a few minutes' notice:
There are two teams of nine players each, not counting reserves. The defensive team controls the ball and plays in the field. The offensive team is "up to bat."
The playing field is made up of 3 bases and home plate (the infield) and left, center, and right field (the outfield). The boundaries of the field are defined by white chalk lines (the foul lines) and the outfield fence.
The game consists of nine innings. The visiting team starts each inning at bat. Each team gets three outs in their half of the inning. If the score is tied at the end of nine innings, the game is extended one full inning at a time until one team or the other wins.
Pitches are either strikes or balls. Strikes are thrown over the plate, between the batter's knees and shoulders. All pitches thrown outside that zone are called balls. If the batter swings and misses the pitch he is called for a strike. Three strikes are ruled an out. Four balls allow the batter a free trip to first base, called a walk. Foul balls count as strikes, but the batter can't be called out on a foul ball. There is no limit to the number of foul balls allowed in one at-bat. The umpire, though often wrong, determines whether a pitch is a strike or a ball.
The goal of each batter is to get to base. This is accomplished by hitting the ball into fair territory during his at-bat and then running to first base (or beyond) before the outfield team tags him out. If the outfield team catches a batted ball before it touches the ground, the batter is called out and base runners much "tag up" before they can advance bases.
Each player that makes it all the way around to home plate without being tagged out scores a run. After nine innings, the team with the most runs wins the game.
The pitcher's job is to throw pitches that are across the plate but difficult to hit. He uses fastballs, curves, sliders, sinkers, and off-speed pitches. The batter tries to anticipate those pitches and to hit the ball as far as possible. If the batter hits the ball over the outfield fence that is called a home run. The batter runs all the bases and anyone who was on base also scores.
The defensive team is in the outfield trying to prevent the offense from scoring. This is accomplished by catching fly balls off the bat or by fielding the ball from the ground and throwing it to a teammate who can tag a base runner from the opposing team while that base runner is not on base.
There are several ways to get a batter or base runner out. The batter can be called out on strikes or he can miss the pitch for his third strike. If he hits the ball on the fly and one of the defensive players catches it in the air, he is called out. If the batter hits a ground ball, he must get to first base before the defensive players retrieve the ball and throw it to first base. If the ball is fielded close to the base runner, he can also be called out if the defensive player tags the runner with the ball or the glove that the ball is in.
A single is credited to the batter if he hits the ball and advances safely to first base. He is credited with a double if he makes it safely to second base on his hit. A triple is when he gets all the way to third on the hit. If he makes it all the way back to home plate, it's called a home run. A very special and uncommon home run occurs when the bases are loaded for the home run. It's called a grand slam.
Baseball is the only major sport in which the defensive team has control of the ball. In fact, if the offensive team touches the ball, they are penalized with an out.
Baseball is best enjoyed in the company of friends, on a warm evening, with a cold beer.
The Bandits continue to show flashes of the greatness that I know they possess. They continue to frustrate this fan/reporter because I know they have more talent than they show. They are currently in second place in the Western Division, two games behind Cedar Rapids. They are just a half game ahead of Beloit and Peoria. Their record going into Tuesday is 25-19. This team should have a minimum of 30 wins on the season so far.
C.J. Beatty and D'Marcus Ingram lead the team in batting average at .314 and .312 respectively. Jason Stidham is hitting over .300 and seems to come up with the big hits just when they are needed. Michael Swinson and Robert Stock continue to struggle at the plate; perhaps warmer weather will help them. Matt Adams and Niko Vasquez are becoming the "iron men" of the team, appearing in 43 and 42 games each. Ryan Jackson has struggled lately with the bat, too.