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Baseball

INTRODUCTION

Baseball is probably the one sport which is most clearly

identified with
being American.Former President

Herbert Hoover once stated that baseball is the greatest

of all team sports. For the past 150 years, baseball

has become so intertwined in all aspects of American

daily life that the baseball strike of 1994 seemed almost

unthinkable. Who could imagine summer without

hot dogs and soft drinks at the ball park or a warm

summer evening spent cheering a favorite team to victory?

HISTORY OF THE GAME

Baseball, however Americanit may seem to us today, did not originate in America. Itprobably began in England with

a game called rounders.The term baseballdates

from 1744, when a book on sports described and illustrated a batter holding a bat with a

catcher in position behind the batter and a pitcher ready to throw a ball. This English

book was reprinted in America around 1762.

In 1845, an American amateur baseball player named Alexander Cartwright, along with

other early baseball players, wrote the rules of the game. Many of these rules are still in

effect today.

Baseball came to be dominated by professional players some time around 1869, when

the first professional team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, was organized. Later, many

regional leagues were started, then dissolved. At this point in history, baseball was not a

very lucrative business, and few teams were able to make money. In the late 1880s, the

National League attempted to limit the salary that players could accept to a maximum of

$2,000.

During the early period of league formation, rules for transferring players from one

league to another were created. There were also strict rules for recruiting minor league

players for the major leagues. At present, all major league teams maintain minor league

teams called
farm clubswhere players are trained and eventually transferred to a major

league.

In 1903, the first World Series was held. It was held every year since until the baseball

strike of 1994. Today, baseball, despite the impact of the strike, continues to be a highlyorganized

and lucrative sport. The salaries of baseball players are the highest of all athletes

who play team sports.

HOW THE GAME IS PLAYED

THE RULES OF THE GAME

In baseball, two teams of nine players compete with one another on a baseball diamond

which in reality is a square field. The teams are comprised of a pitcher, catcher, a

first, second and third baseman, a shortstop, and left, center and right fielders.

A catcher stands behind the batter and signals

the pitcher as to what type of ball to throw. Each

game is made up of nine innings. If the home

team is ahead (that is, if it has scored more runs)

at the end of the middle of the ninth inning, the

home team wins.

The baseball field has four bases which are

spaced ninety feet apart from each other. The

batter
s box, the area where the batter stands, islocated 60 feet and six inches from the pitchers

mound. The two foul lines run the length of the

field and define the playing area.The batter

s objective is to get a hit. Once the ball is hit,
the batter (now called the runner) must get to first

base before the ball is caught by the first baseman.

Once the ball is caught, the runner is tagged or

the first baseman touches first base before the

runner touches it. If the batter can get to first

base safely, it is called a single.

A doubleoccurs if the batter can run to second

base, and a triple occurs when a batter

makes it to third base. A home run means that the

batter runs around all the bases and reaches home

plate ahead of the ball. The batter can also hit a home

run by hitting the ball over a wall or fence in the outfield.

The defensive team in the field tries to keep the offensive team
s batters from scoring.

One way of getting a batter out is to pitch three strikes. A strike occurs when the batter

swings and misses or doesn
t try to hit a ball that is pitched within the strike zone. If a

batter already has two strikes and hits a ball into foul territory, the foul does not count as

a strike. A foul ball counts as a strike under all other conditions.

If a pitcher throws a ball that does not cross home plate between the batter
s armpits and

knees (the strike zone), the pitch is a ball.When a pitcher throws four balls to any onebatter, the batter is able to go to first base without having to hit the ball

technically

called a walk.

Once the ball is hit and is in

the air, the players in the field

attempt to catch the ball before

it hits the ground. If a fly

or line ball is caught, the batter

is automatically out. A

ground ball, when caught, is

thrown to a base in order to

get the runner out.

Baseball players can also slide

into a base to keep from being

tagged out. Sliding is more

difficult than it appears to be and requires practice to be done properly. The body falls to

the ground in a controlled manner by a fall backward on the outer surface of the knee

and lower leg, or just by diving head first.

All games have at least one umpire to call balls and strikes. Major league games have

four umpires, one at each base.

THE PITCHER

The pitcher is considered the most important defensive player

on a team. This position is the most physically demanding

spot on the team as well as the position with the most control

over the game. A pitcher needs excellent control over the ball

in order to throw the ball where he or she aims it. Pitchers

have been known to throw the ball 100 miles per hour.

Various styles of throwing the ball may be used to achieve

different results. For example, a curve ball swerves from a

straight line to the left or right, depending on which arm the

pitcher is using. A fast ball is just that
a ball thrown extremely
fast. A slideris a cross between a fast ball and a curve ball

and seems to slideaway from the batter.

OUTFIELDERS AND INFIELDERS

Long or high balls, or ground balls that go past the infield, are caught by one of the three

outfielders. Outfielders must have superior throwing ability. The center fielder is generally

the fastest of the three outfielders since he or she has the most area to cover. Center

fielders must also have a
strong arm,as they

must throw balls to third base and home plate.

Some of the most famous names in baseball

were outfielders
among them Babe Ruth, Ty

Cobb, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams and Mickey

Mantle.

The job of the infielder, the player who is on

the bases and the shortstop, is to try to prevent

balls from going into the outfield. These players

also attempt to throw or tag out the batter

once a ball has been hit. In particular, the short

stop has the most demanding position and must have a strong throwing arm and quick

reactions.

The history of baseball is full of famous infielders, including Lou Gehrig, Rogers Hornsby,

Jackie Robinson and Ernie Banks.

THE CATCHER

The position of catcher is considered to be very

important. The catcher is the
brainsor strategy

planner for the game. His or her judgment

in choosing pitches can determine the best defensive

play for the rest of the team.

The catcher is thought by many to be the hardest-

working member of a team. He or she has

to know all the weaknesses and strengths of

the pitchers. He or she covers third or first base

when no one else is on base, and wears more

equipment than any other player.

DESIGNATED HITTER

A tenth starting player in the American League, minor leagues and many amateur leagues

is a player used only to bat. This player has no defensive role and bats instead of the

weakest hitter (usually the pitcher).

KEEPING SCORE IN BASEBALL

The box score (records of both individual players and games) is kept by an official

scorer. Also, newspapers and baseball clubs keep detailed records of the players
batting

averages, fielding averages and pitching records.

Batting averages are calculated by taking the number of hits and dividing that figure by

the number of times a player is at bat. If a batter
walks,it is not counted as a time at

bat. Nor is it counted as a hit. Fielding averages are figured by taking the total put-outs

and assists and dividing them by the total number of put-outs, assists and errors.

An error occurs when a player gets to first base because the defensive player did not

catch the ball or, having caught the ball, threw it poorly to another player.

Pitching records indicate the number of games won and lost and earned-run averages

(total earned runs allowed, divided by the number of innings pitched, then multiplied by

nine).

PLAYING TECHNIQUES

THROWS IN BASEBALL

Developing a good throwing technique is an important skill in baseball. Throwing is the

most complicated of all the baseball skills to execute effectively. It calls for speed, accuracy

and long hours of practice. Good throwing takes into account the following steps:

The first step in learning a correct throwing technique is a proper grip. The

player should grip the ball by placing the index and middle fingers over one

of the four long seams on the baseball. The inner side of the thumb is

placed on the underside of the ball in line with the middle finger. The

ball and the point where the index finger and thumb meet should

form a
Vshape. The ball is held loosely, almost in the fingertips.

Learn the proper stance for throwing. As the player prepares to

throw the ball, his or her elbow should be up, shoulders level,

and wrist cocked with fingers behind and on top of the ball.

As the ball is released from a point over and in front of the

player
s head, the players fingers should be behind the

ball.

Remember that a player
s arm does not work alone inthrowing the ball. The players entire body needs to be

propelled forward in order to build arm speed for the

throw. The player needs to take an exaggeratedly long step forward toward

the target. The length of that step, however, depends on how far the ball has

to travel. For example, an outfielder
s step will be long because he has to

throw the ball up to 300 feet away.

Follow-through is important! The technique of throwing does not end when

the ball is released from the hand. If there is no follow-through, the ball will

lose a great deal of speed and accuracy. The throwing arm should continue

to move downward across the front of the body and behind the left hip if

the right arm is being used. Both feet should be parallel to the target and

pointing toward it.

Players need to take special care of their arms because of the intense workout the arm

gets in a game of baseball. Warm-up exercises should always be done before practice or

a game. Many players ruin their chances at a pro or amateur career in baseball by abusing

their arms. Watch that arm
it is your most valuable asset in the years of baseball

playing ahead of you!

EQUIPMENT AND CLOTHING

Baseball is played with very simple equipmenta ball, a bat

and a glove. Bats are no more than 2-3/4 inches in diameter

and 42 inches long. They can be of any weight. The baseball

itself weighs about five ounces and is covered with

two strips of white horsehide stitched together with

a small inner core of cork or rubber.

All players on a team use gloves. A standard

baseball glove may not exceed 12

inches in length and 8 inches in width.

The first baseman and catcher usually

wear gloves that are thicker than those

of the other players.

BASEBALL NOTES AND NEWS

As many people remember, 1994 went down in baseball history as a lost season. It was

the year of the first season-ending strike in the history of a sport that has long been

regarded as America
s National Pastime.The repercussions of the strike were farreaching.

For the first time in 90 years, there was no World Series. The strike lasted 34

days and covered 669 games cancelled. Owners lost over $400 million in revenues.

When the players returned, there was no mistaking the change in atmosphere. Fans felt

misused and misinformed, and the grandstands were all but empty in many fields. Even

by early 1999, the stands were still not up to pre-strike attendance levels.

Bleachers were full, however, during the 1999 World Series. What else could it be for a

New York Yankees team that is surely one of the greatest in Major League Baseball

history? Roger Clemens and the Yankees put the finishing touch

on another dominant season by beating the Atlanta Braves

4-1 in the fourth game for a record 25th World Series

championship. Yankee pitcher Mariano Rivera, who had

two saves and a victory in the Series, was selected

MVP.

For the 2000 World Series it was the New York

Mets and the New York Yankees, battling it out in

what was referred to as the
subway series.Although

a new millennium, it was the same New York Yankees.The Yankees won their

third straight World Series title and fourth in five years by beating the New York Mets 4-

2 in game five.

In 2001 it was the Arizona Diamondbacks and the New York Yankees who faced off for

the World Series championship. The Arizona Diamondbacks became the fastest expansion

team in hitory to win baseball
s ultimate prize; they dethoned the three-time defending

champion New York Yankees with a stunning and dramtic 3-2 victory. In only

their fourth year of existence, the Diamondbacks rose to the championship by rallying

from a 2-1 deficit in the ninth inning. It was Luis Gonzalez
s, single off Yankees closer Mariano Rivera that drove in the winning run. The championship is Phoenixs first in

any of the four major team sports.

Iron Man,Cal Ripken, announced his retirement after 21

years as an Oriole. His fabulous career ended on September

30, 2001 at the Yankee Sadium.

Baseball is also an Olympic sport. The team from the United

States defeated Cuba to win the Gold Medal in the 2000

Sydney Olympic Games. Before the Games began, the coach

for team USA, Tommy Lasorda, promised America it would

know the USA baseball team members when all was said

and done. Now, with gold medals draped around their necks,

players like Doug Mientkiewicz and Ben Sheets are coming home to find Lasorda
spromise was true.

WHAT TO DO:

The following questions will help you to have a greater appreciation and understanding

of baseball. Write your answers in the spaces below the questions. If there is not enough

room, write on the backs of these sheets. Be neat, spell correctly, and write in complete

sentences.

1. Baseball is often identified as the great American sport, yet it didnt begin in America. How and where did this game

 originate?

2. What are some of the physical benefits to be gained from playing baseball?

3. What are
farm teamsand how are they used?

4. How many people make up a typical baseball team and what positions do they play?5. What is a

single? a double?
6. When does a balloccur?

7. How is a good slide into a base performed?

8. Why is the pitcher considered the most important defensive player on the team?

9. Name at least four factors involved in performing a good throw:

10. What are some of the effects of the baseball strike in 1994? In your opinion, will

baseball ever return to its pre-1994 status as the most popular spectator sport in

America?

Short Answer Questions:

1. The batter stands in it. It is 60 feet 6 inches from the pitcher

2. They are the players who try to prevent ball from going into the outfield

3. Weight in ounces of a baseball

4. Nickname for a baseball field

5. The number of bases

6. If the ball is not pitched in the strike zone and the batter does not swing, it is called this

7. The player who gives signals to the pitcher to tell him what type of pitch to throw

8. Most consider him to be the most important defensive player

9. Wrote the rules of baseball in 1845

10. A hit that gets the batter to first base safely

11. The first pro baseball team was the Cincinnati Red _____

12. What baseball used to be called in England

13. They are the players who are responsiblefor catching long fly balls

14. A cross between a fast ball and a curve ball

15. Another word for a minor league team

16. The distance in feet between the bases

17. A hit that gets the batter to second base safely

18. This player takes a position in the batter
s box

19. When the batter swings at a pitch and misses it

20. A method of touching the base without being tagged out

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