Guide to Baseball

May 26, 2021
You handle the beer, hot dog and peanuts; we’ll break down all the stuff in between so you can become a regular baseball expert. Don’t worry, we have your back.
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Guide to Baseball

The GIST

Baseball is America’s national pastime. Why? Well, it quite literally passes time. The average length of a baseball game was just over three hours of continuous fun — until the new pitch clock shortened the game by 24 minutes in 2023.

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 defense. 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!

Each half-inning ends after three outs (e.g., when a player strikes out on pitches, is thrown out at a base, tagged out between bases, 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? The seventh inning stretch, of course.

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 MLB teams equally divided into the National (NL) League and the American League (AL) — which are further divided into three equal five-team divisions: Central, East, and West.

There are 162 regular-season games (that’s not a typo… the MLB has the longest season in major league sports) played between late March or early April and the end of September.

The playoffs follow, taking over baseball fields throughout October, and sometimes into early November. Twelve teams, six from the NL and six 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). See more on the postseason format here.

Who to know

With an astounding 27 (!!!) World Series titles, the NY Yankees lead MLB by a mile: Sliding in with the second-most championships are the St. Louis Cardinals, who have 11 rings.

But the name on every baseball fan's lips lately is an LA Dodger: Two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani was 2018's AL Rookie of the Year when he played for the other LA team, the Angels. His success on that squad both on the mound and at the plate earned Ohtani a record $700M, 10-year contract across town starting in 2024. LA, baby!

Women at 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, a smaller diamond, and pitchers who throw underhand.

Women do play baseball at the amateur level. It’s played at the Pan Am Games (for North, South, and Central America), with international teams of women repping their national pride.

Plus, women are busting down barriers at at all levels of the game. Alyssa Nakken became the first full-time MLB coach when she was hired by the San Francisco Giants in 2020, Brown University’s Olivia Pichardo became the first woman to play NCAA Division I baseball in 2023, and after breaking gender barriers in the Atlantic League in 2022, pitcher and outfielder Kelsie Whitmore became the first woman in the Pioneer League — and MLB partner league — in 2024. Her next stop? The MLB, of course.

Channel your inner fan!

Here’s some fun stats to break out at your next office ballgame outing:

  • The lifespan of a MLB baseball is only five-to-seven pitches, meaning about 70 baseballs are used during a game. Wild.
  • While no woman has played in an MLB game (yet!), sports executive Effa Louise Manley (1897–1981) is the first and only woman inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. 'Atta be, Effa!
  • Following in her footsteps, former Miami Marlins General Manger (GM) Kim Ng became the first-ever female GM (!!!) in any North American major sports league in 2021. Then in 2023, she made history again as the first female GM to lead an MLB team to the playoffs. Would follow her anywhere.