Basic Baseball Rules

Instructor: Angela Janovsky

Angela has taught middle and high school English, Business English and Speech for nine years. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology and has earned her teaching license.

Baseball is a very popular sport, but it can seem very complicated upon first look. Read this lesson to discover some of the basic rules for the great sport of baseball.

America's Favorite Pastime

Baseball: America's favorite pastime. There's just something about the crack of a bat or the smack of a ball hitting a glove that speaks to the competitor in each of us.

Baseball has been a professional sport for over a hundred years, but oddly enough most of the basic rules have remained the same. Let's look into some of those basic rules.

The Setup

Perhaps the most significant aspect of learning any sport is the overall purpose and basic setup. Here is a list of the general guidelines for baseball:

  • A game is played by two teams of 9 players.
  • Each team takes turns playing defense in the field and offense via batting.
  • The pitcher throws the ball to the batter. Defensive players field the ball when it is hit and try to get the runner out.
  • The goal is to hit the ball with the bat and run around the bases. If a batter makes it around the bases and back to home plate, he scores a run. The team with the most runs at the end of the game wins.
  • When the defense gets 3 outs, the teams rotate defense to offense.
  • An inning is over when each team has made 3 outs.
  • Each game lasts 9 innings.

Basically, one team bats and tries to hit the ball. The other team fields it and tries to get them out.

Overview of a baseball field
baseball field 2

Now look at the picture showing the baseball field. Each base has a defensive fielder. The batter stands at home plate while batting. The pitcher is on the mound, and throws to the catcher, who is behind the batter. The other three defensive players are positioned in the outfield. There is also a shortstop that stands between second and third base.

When the ball is hit, the batter runs to first base. Eventually he will proceed to second base, then third base, and finally back to home plate. If he reaches home plate safely, that is when the run is scored.

The Offense

Now that you have an understanding of the basic play, let's look closer at the rules of offense.

The offense is the team that is at-bat and is trying to score runs. Each player bats in a specific order, which is called the batting order or lineup. The lineup must remain in the same order throughout the entire game.

A batter stands in the batter's box on one side of the plate, depending on whether he is right or left-handed. When he is in the box, the pitcher pitches the ball. The most important part of batting is the strike zone, which is approximately the space between each side of the plate and from the batter's knee to his armpits. The pitch must cross this space in order to be a strike, or a pitch deemed good enough at which to swing. If the pitch is outside of this space, it is unhittable, and is called a ball.

The strike zone
strike zone

If the pitcher throws 4 balls to a single batter, this is a walk and that batter is awarded first base. However, if he throws 3 strikes without the batter hitting the ball, the batter is called out. It is important to note that if the batter swings at a ball outside of the strike zone, it is deemed a strike. The umpire calls the balls and strikes, and keeps the count.

A foul ball, or one hit outside the field of play, is called a strike. If the batter already had 2 strikes, he cannot strike out on a foul. Instead, the count remains the same and the at-bat continues. Lastly, if the batter is hit by a pitch, he is awarded first base.

Once a batter is either called out or hits safely onto the bases, the next batter is up. This continues until the defense gets 3 outs. Once all 9 players have batted, the first batter is up again.

The Defense

Once the batter hits the ball, the defense tries to make a play. The defense's goal is to get 3 outs in order to end the inning without giving up any runs.

A pop-fly occurs when the ball is hit in the air without touching the ground. If a defensive player catches it in the air, the batter is out. If the batter hits the ball so far that it goes over the outfield fence, it is a homerun. Everyone who is on base and the batter can all score freely.

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