You handle the beer, hot dogs and peanuts; we’ll break down all the stuff in between so you’ll become a regular baseball expert. Don’t worry, we have your back.
Baseball is America’s national pastime. Why? Well, it quite literally passes time. The average length of a baseball game is just over three hours of continuous fun.
Baseball is played on a field shaped like a diamond (its other name) with a base on each corner. A team scores a point (referred to as runs) when one of their players is able to make it all the way around the diamond and back to home plate. The team with the most runs at the end of the game, wins!
Rather than periods or quarters, baseball is divided into nine innings, each with a top and a bottom half. At the beginning of an inning, the visiting team goes up to bat while the home team sends nine players into the field to play defence. Then the teams switch to play the bottom of that inning. It’s an advantage to be the last team up to bat because you have the last chance for a comeback win!
An inning is over after three outs (e.g., when a player strikes out on pitches, is thrown out at a base or their ball is caught in the air). And if the game is tied after nine innings, the game goes into extra innings until a winner can be decided.
But our fave part of baseball? It’s got to be the seventh inning stretch.
How is baseball organized?
Baseball is played all over the world; however, the most popular league in the world is Major League Baseball (MLB) located in North America. There are 30 teams in the MLB and the league is divided into the National (NL) League and the American League (AL) which are further divided into three divisions: Central, East and West.
Here’s where things get a little confusing (but that’s what you’ve got us for!): The AL and NL follow a slightly different set of rules. For instance, in the NL, pitchers also come up to the plate to bat, but they don’t in the AL. Instead, the AL has a “designated hitter," or DH, that comes up to bat in that place.
There are 162 regular season games (that’s not a typo… the MLB by far has the longest season in major league sports), followed by the playoffs. Ten teams, five from the NL and five from the AL, make it into the postseason where all of the players’ blood, sweat, tears and bat flips go into winning the World Series (the MLB championship). More on the playoff structure here.
Who’s the current champ?
The LA Dodgers won the 2020 World Series, defeating the Tampa Bay Rays in six thrilling games. With the win, the Dodgers earned their seventh franchise championship, ending a 32-year (!!!) World Series drought.
The Dodgers, led by outfielder Mookie Betts and starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw, fulfilled their preseason favorite status to win the championship in a pandemic-shortened season that almost never happened. LA, baby!
Names to know
We already mentioned LA Dodger Betts, who will surely continue doing Mookie things next season. There must be something in the water in LA, because the other top player to watch is Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout, who's won three AL MVP awards but has never won a playoff game. Maybe this year?
There's some young star power making noise this year, including bat flipping machine San Diego Padre Fernando Tatís Jr. and Washington National Juan Soto, who is already drawing comparisons to Ted Williams (aka "The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived"). Decent company.
As for pitchers, two of the top arms in the majors just so happen to be in New York. In the AL, it's NY Yankee Gerrit Cole, who signed a record-breaking contract when he joined the pin stripes in 2019. And over in the NL, NY Met Jacob deGrom used to be known for his signature flow, but now he's better known for leading the NL in strikeouts last year.
And if you're looking for a team to watch, we recommend the Miami Marlins. Not only did the Marlins impress with their Cinderella story run in the 2020 playoffs, they also made a herstoric offseason announcement, naming Kim Ng as their General Manger (GM). Ng is the first-ever female GM (!!!) in any North American major sports league. Suddenly we're all Marlins fans!
What about the Jays?
The Toronto Blue Jays were founded in 1977 (but didn’t serve beer until 1982) and have won two World Series championships (in '92 and '93) but they haven’t had much luck since. They won the AL East title in 2015 and 2016 and, most recently, they clinched a 2020 playoff berth thanks to the league's expanded playoff field that year, but were eliminated in the first round. Womp.
But that luck could all change this year, as the Jays made some big offseason moves highlighted by the signing of three-time All-Star, outfielder George Springer. And as for returners, keep your eye on 23-year-old shortstop Bo Bichette and 22-year-old Canadian-born third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr., affectionately known as '“Vladdy Jr." With all this talent, this year really might be our year.
Women who bat
For whatever reason, women do not have a pro league for “hardball” (another name for baseball). Instead, women play softball professionally — a similar game but with a bigger ball where pitchers throw underhand.
Women DO play baseball at the amateur level. It’s an Olympic sport (including at Tokyo 2020!) and is played at the Pan Am Games (for North, South and Central America).
Fun fact: Canadian hockey superstar and Hockey Hall of Fame inductee, Hayley Wickenheiser, ALSO played for the Canadian softball team in the Olympics. What can’t this woman do? Hint: the answer is nothing.
Channel your inner fan!
Here are some fun stats to break out at your next office ball game outing:
- The lifespan of an MLB baseball is only five-to-seven pitches, meaning about 70 baseballs are used during a game. Just wild.
- The New York Yankees have the most World Series titles, winning 27 in their 116 (!!!) year history. And they’re not even the oldest MLB team.
- Unfortunately, no woman has ever played in an MLB game. BUT sports executive Effa Louise Manley (1897–1981) is the first and only woman inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. ‘Atta be, Effa!