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, but just one Canadian team, the Toronto Blue Jays (shout out!). 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 each have a slightly different set of rules they follow. 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.
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 Washington Nationals won the World Series in 2019, defeating the Houston Astros in a wild seven-game series where the home team didn’t win a single game! That’s right, the Nats took the championship by winning all four of their games in Houston. This was Washington’s first World Series win in franchise history and they were big underdogs going into the final. Talk about a Cinderella story.
Looking at 2020…
This season, keep your eye on Bryce Harper (Philadelphia Phillies right field), Mike Trout (LA Angels centrefield and the highest paid athlete in baseball), Manny Machado (San Diego Padres third baseman and shortstop) and Clayton Kershaw (LA Dodgers pitcher).
And expect big things from the New York Yankees and LA Dodgers this year.
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, back-to-back in ‘92 and ‘93, but haven’t had much luck since. Their best recent efforts came in 2015 and 2016, winning the AL East title in both seasons, but posted losing records every season since.
The rebuild — when a team trade away their older talent and starts to build again with young up-and-comers — is officially in full swing. Keep your eye on 21-year-old shortstop Bo Bichette and 20-year-old third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr., affectionately known as '“Vladdy Jr”, who you might recognize thanks to his superstar father (same name) who played the majority of his MLB career with the Montreal Expos (when Montreal used to have a team). Rebuilds can take time, but we have high hopes for the future of this squad.
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!