Baseball: A Kindergarten Summary

The baseball scoreboard is "pointless." This game is about "runs."

Some friends from Algeria are going with us to their first baseball game in the near future. As a result, I have tried to put together a basic set of points on what the game is all about. That job has turned out to be not as easy as it may have first looked. At my age, I’m still trying to figure out all the little odds and ends that sometimes appear.

Learning baseball is like learning a language. The younger you are at first exposure, the easier it is to absorb. Learning baseball as an adult, with no previous exposure to the game, is a little too much like any average English-speaking American deciding to learn Chinese Mandarin at the age of forty.

Here’s what I’ve gotten down on paper, so far. Let me know what you think is missing – or needs to be said differently:

A Kindergarten Course on the Game of Baseball

The object of the game of baseball is to score more runs than the other team over a course of nine equal attempts called innings. A run opportunity is registered each time a player either bats a ball safely enough to reach first base, one of the four running stations, or arrives there by one of the prescribed non-hitting ways – or as a result of some errant play by the team on defense. Once a “runner” reaches first, second, and third base safely, and then returns to “home” plate without being tagged or forced out along the way, a run is scored. There are a few other basics, of course, – basics such as balls and strikes, outs per inning, fair versus foul balls, called and swinging strikes, sacrifice bunts and suicide squeeze plays, balks and catcher’s interferences, tagged versus forced outs, and can-of-corn fly ball outs and shoestring catches – but we will try to pick up on those as they come up and explain certain things that happen in the context of the actual game we shall be watching. In the meanwhile, keep your eyes on the train and watch what it does every time an Astros player hits a home run. Also, check out the loud music that sometimes keeps you from thinking, let alone talking – and watch for the girls on the field that use a big slingshot to fire tee shirts into the crowd. Otherwise, you may get hit in the eye. That tradition goes way back to 1876 and the first season of the National League. Finally, as a first-time baseball game spectator, please don’t come to the game expecting to see any pepper games. There won’t be any.

In summary, baseball is a lot like many other things in life in one important regard. – The team that ends up with the most runs when play is finished wins the game. – Can you think of anything else in your life that works like that?

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7 Responses to “Baseball: A Kindergarten Summary”

  1. Marsha Franty Says:

    What a fun, but challenging, exercise, Bill. I don’t know much about baseball, my interest having developed during my adult years, but I believe that your second sentence should read, “A hit is recorded…” rather than “A run is scored…” If I am wrong, please correct me.
    Hoping your Algerian friends learn to enjoy the game!

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      Hi, Marsha!

      Thanks. Your recommendation was close. I meant to say “a run opportunity is registered” and have now corrected the text to read as such.

      Regards, Bill

  2. Bill McCurdy Says:

    Tal Smith, President of the Houston Astros, writes by e-mail ,,,,

    Bill,

    We (The Houston Astros) have re-introduced “pepper” games in our minor league system. I never could understand why it was abandoned throughout the game in recent years. It’s a good drill – and fun.

    Tal

  3. Marsha Franty Says:

    Bill, Thanks for the clarification. My suggestion was inaccurate in not allowing for base-on-balls, hit by pitch, etc.
    Please enlighten me on the meaning of “pepper game,” when you have a chance

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      A pepper game is basically a reflex exercise played with a bat, ball, and gloves at close range. Two to four players with gloves lob-pitch a ball to a batter at close range, no more than 8-10 feet away. The batter bunts and slow-swings for contact with the ball, hitting pitches at random back to those involved in fielding. It’s a fun game that we used to see and play all the time prior to games, but then it stopped in recent years.

      Sometimes ownership felt it was too risky as a potential harm to spectators sitting near the field of play from errantly stroked balls. Hence, all the almost as famous “No Pepper Games” signs that sprang up on the walls near the stands.

      Even at my amateur kid level of play, we used to call it our “wake up” exercise prior to games, It definitely put you on your toes to an awareness of objects flying at you fast.

      I loved it. It was fun.

  4. Marsha Franty Says:

    Thanks, Bill!

  5. Darrell Pittman Says:

    Er, what about the infield fly rule?

    Just kidding…

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