Baseball is a very popular sport in USA played by two teams that each have 9 players. In baseball, one team throws a small round ball called a baseball and the other team tries to hit it with a club called a bat. Teams get points by running and touching markers on the ground called "bases". There is another sport called softball that is largely for women.
Many people in North America, South America, and East Asia play baseball. In the United States, baseball is called the "national pastime", because so many people in the United States spend a lot of time playing or watching games. More people go to Major League Baseball games than go to see all the other team sports. But on TV, more people like to watch American football and car racing.
How to play baseball.
A game of baseball is played by two teams on a baseball field. Each team has nine players. There are also umpires, who watch everything carefully to decide what happened, and make sure everyone follows the rules. There are usually four umpires in major league games with one standing near each base. In major games two more umpires are usually added further down the baseline toward the outfield.
On a baseball field, there are four bases. The bases form a line that goes around the field to the right from the starting base. The starting base is called "home plate". Home plate has five sides. First base is 15-inch (38 cm) squares. It is higher than the ground. The sides of the diamond are 450 feet (27.4 metres) long.
The baseball field has two main parts, the infield and the outfield. The "infield" is where the four bases are. The "outfield" is past the bases, between first and third base. The lines from home plate to first base and home plate to third base make the "foul lines", and the ground outside of these lines is called "foul territory". A ball that is hit with a bat and flies in between the foul lines is a "fair ball". A fair ball must be picked up by the team on defense, and that lets the hitter start running on the bases. A ball that is outside the foul lines is a "foul ball", and may be caught in the air by the team on defense for an out, unless it hits the ground. If the ball bounces in foul territory, the batter cannot start running around the bases.
The game is played in "innings". Professional and college baseball has nine innings. In an inning, each team has one turn to bat and try to score "runs" worth one point. When one team bats, the other team plays defense and tries to get three players on the other team "out" so they can bat. The team that is playing defense always has the ball. This is different from other team sports. When the team on defense gets three players out it is their turn to hit. Then the team that was batting starts playing defense, and the team that was playing defense starts batting. After nine innings, the team that has the most runs is the winner. If the teams have the same number of runs, they play more innings until one team wins. At the start of the game, the home team pitches, while players on the visiting team bat. Only one player can bat at a time.
The most important part of the game is between the "pitcher" and the "batter". The pitcher throwsâ€'"pitches"â€'the ball towards home plate. He must throw it close enough for the batter to hit. The pitcher must throw the ball over home plate and between the hitter's knee and chest. A pitch that does this is a "strike", unless the batter hits the ball. It is always a strike if the batter swings the bat and misses, so the batter must have good aim with the bat. Three strikes make an "out". A pitch that the batter does not swing at and is not close enough to be a strike is a "ball." On the fourth "ball" thrown by a pitcher, the batter "walks" to first base, so it is important to pitch well.
The "catcher" for the pitcher's team waits behind the batter, and then catches the ball. His job is to catch any ball that the batter does not hit. The catcher uses signals to tell the pitcher where to throw the ball. If the pitcher does not like what the catcher says, he will shake his head, which signals "no". If he thinks the catcher has a good idea, he will nod his head, which signals "yes".
There are many ways to get batters and runners out. Some very common ways to get them out are catching a batted ball in the air, tagging a runner with the ball, a force out (when the base is touched before a player can get there), and a strikeout. A strikeout is when a batter has three strikes. When the fielding team has put out three of the batting team's players, the "half-inning" is over and the team in the field and the team at bat switch places.
The batting team wants to get runs. In order to get a run, a player must bat, then become a base runner, touch all the bases in order, and then touch home plate. So first, the batter wants to make other players get to home plate, or to run the bases himself. The batter also tries to hit the ball between the foul lines, so that the fielding team cannot get anyone out. After the batter hits the ball, if it lands outside of the foul lines, it will be called a "foul ball".
A base-runner who touches home plate after touching all previous bases in order scores a "run".
Fielding team.
The team in the field tries not to let the team at bat get any runs. The fielding team has a pitcher and a catcher. This pair is often called the "battery". The remaining seven fielders may stand anywhere in the field. However, there are usually four "infielders" that stand around the infield close to the bases and three "outfielders" who stand around the outfield.
The four infielders are the "first baseman", "second baseman", "shortstop", and "third baseman". The first baseman and third baseman stand close to first base and third base. The second baseman and the shortstop stand on either side of second base.
The first baseman's job is to make "force plays" at first base. In a force play, another infielder catches a ball that has touched the ground, and throws it to the first baseman. The first baseman must then touch the batter or the base with the ball before the batter can touch first base. Then the batter is out. First basemen need to have quick feet, stretch well, be quick and know how to catch wild throws. First base is one of the most important positions as 90% of the plays are there.
The second baseman's job is to cover the area to the right of second base and to back the first baseman up. The shortstop's job is to cover the area between second and third bases. This is where right-handed batters usually hit ground balls. The shortstop also covers second or third base and the near part of left field. The shortstop is usually the best fielder on the team. The third baseman needs to have a strong throwing arm. This is because many times the batter will hit a ball toward third base. The third baseman must throw the ball very quickly to the first baseman, to get the runner out. Because the balls that go to third base are usually hit very hard, the third baseman must also be very quick.
The three outfielders are called the "left fielder", the "center fielder", and the "right fielder", because they stand in left field, center field and right field. Left field and right field are on the left and right sides, if you look out from home plate. Center field is straight ahead from home plate. Center field is very big, so the center fielder is usually the fastest. The center fielder usually decides who should catch fly balls.
The team can decide where to put the infielders and outfielders. Players often shift their positioning because of how the game is going. They may change positions at any time.
Teams can change pitchers during a game. A team can use as many pitchers as it wants to, but it is rare to use more than eight in a game. The ways that a pitcher throws the ball are called "pitches". Most pitchers use two or more different pitches. Pitchers change their pitches so that the batter cannot hit the ball. They can make the ball move differently: faster or slower, closer or further from the batter, higher or lower. Pitches are usually categorized into three categories: fastballs, change-ups ("off speed pitches"), and breaking (balls that curve) balls.
There are many types of break/off-speed pitches, such as the slurve, curve, slider, splitter, sinker, screw, 2-seam cut, 2-seam screw, knuckle, knuckle curve, change-up, circle change-up, palm ball, and others.
When throwing the ball, the pitcher must touch the "pitcher's rubber" with his foot. The pitcher's rubber is on top of the mound. So the pitcher cannot take more than one step forward when he throws the ball. That makes the pitcher throw the ball more slowly. Most major-league pitcher can throw the ball up to ninety miles per hour (145 km/h). Throwing a baseball that fast can be bad for the body. Pitchers usually end up with a lot of injuries.
The batting team.
The batting team wants to get runs. The batting team sends its players up to home plate in a special order. This order is called the "lineup". Each team chooses its lineup at the start of the game. After the game starts, the team cannot change the order. But the team can use a player who was not on the lineup. The new player has to change with an original player. The new player's name is written in the lineup where the original player's name was. After the ninth player has batted, the first player in the lineup starts again. If a runner comes to home plate, he scores a run. Then he is not a base runner. After scoring a run, the player must leave the field until it is his turn again. So a player can only score one run for each time he bats.
Since people began to have more free time, baseball has become the national pastime of America. About 12 million people play baseball in the United States.
At the end of each Major League Baseball season, a special group of games called the World Series is played. The champions of the American League and the National League play many games to see which team is the best. There are seven games in the series. The first team to win four games becomes the baseball world champions for the year.

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