Baseball is a ball game played by two teams of nine players over nine innings, where each team tries to score more runs than the other team. This is the most basic of all baseball rules.

What are innings? What are the positions the players play at? You do not know what a Home Run is (okay that is a joke. Everybody knows what a Home Run is…). What is a run? How does one team score a point? Don’t worry, I have got you covered. After you have read this article, you will get the basic rules of baseball and you will be able to understand and enjoy this wonderful sport.

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“Where is the Quarterback?” Positions in Baseball explained.

In Baseball there are two teams competing against each other. One team plays the defense, while the other one plays the offense. Seems like the baseball rules are actually pretty easy, huh?

To understand the different positions in Baseball, you first have to take a look at the field.

The field can be divided into the inner field and the outer field. They are both limited to the side by the foul lines. The inner field contains the three bases and the home plate, while the outer field is everything behind that.

Check out the picture below to see what I am talking about.

That is basically it. If you are interested in the exact specifications of a baseball field, check this post, but they are not necessary to know in order understand baseball.

Let’s go on to the baseball field positions now.

The positions for the offense are fairly simple, given that they either run from base to base or are at home plate and try to hit the ball. The guy trying to hit the ball is called batter. Any players who stand at a base are called baserunners. That’s it. Before I forget, the order in which the players go on to hit the ball is called batting order.

In contrast to the offense team, the defense is spread out over the baseball field with three people in the outfield, four guys in the infield, one pitcher and one catcher.

The baseball field positions in the outfield are called left fielder, center fielder and right fielder. The positions in the infield are called first base, second base, third base and shortstop. The base players play at the respective base, which is pretty self-explanatory, while the shortstop plays between second and third base. So far so good, huh? Not really that complicated.

Then there is the pitcher who stands on the mound (this small hill in the infield) and throws the ball towards the last team member, who is called the catcher. He stands behind the home plate and tries to catch balls thrown by the pitcher.

Now there is also one more thing to know. All field positions are assigned a number from one to nine, which are used to score putouts. A putout is recorded if a defense player manages to out a baserunner. There are multiple ways for this to happen, and they are covered in the advanced rules post.

Back to the numbers: It starts with the pitcher who is assigned the number one. The catcher has the number two and then the three infield players at the bases are three, four and five for first, second and third base. The player at shortstop is number six. The outfield positions are numbers seven, eight and nine, counted clockwise.

“Please come home.” Scoring points in Baseball.

I have to admit, the headline is actually misleading. In baseball there are no point, but runs. This is an important part of the baseball rules. Given that a run in baseball is the same as a goal in soccer or a point in tennis, it doesn’t really matter. Still, get used to saying “runs”, as calling it points only embarrasses yourself.

So how does a team get a run in baseball? Let’s first clarify what a run is. A run describes the situation when an offense player manages to hit the ball successfully (which is not as easy as it sounds as you will notice in a short while) and then run to all three bases and back to the home plate. Check the above picture of a baseball field, if you forgot what the three bases are and where the home plate is.

Okay so getting a run sounds super easy in theory, but let me tell you, it is not. First of all the batter has to hit the ball. Given that pitchers can throw the ball with up to 100 mph or with crazy spins so it flies to the side or to the ground, that alone proves to be a challenge. If the batter manages to hit the ball, it has to land inside the foul lines. Only then is he allowed to run to a base. Which one should he run to? That depends on the quality of the hit. Sometimes the batter (who becomes a baserunner after hitting the ball) only manages to reach first base. Sometimes he manages to hit the ball outside the playing field and can run back to home plate immediately. And yes, you guessed right. That is called a home run. Now the baseball rules do not sound that easy anymore… and there are much more.

The main problem for baserunners is, that they have to gamble if the infielders manage to catch the ball out of the air. If this happens, baserunners are safe, if they stay with their base. If they ran to another base and the infielder catches the ball out of the air, it is a fly out and the baserunner and the batter are both out. On the other hand, if the ball is not caught out of the air, a baserunner is forced to run to the next base. This dilemma allows for some really interesting plays, as the infielders can intentionally drop a ball and by this force all baserunners to move. Then they can force them out making a double or even triple play possible. So many complicated baseball rules…

Check this article to understand how the Infield Fly Rule helps to prevent this. (Link auf xx baseball rules you did not know)

Second of all, there is still the defense team who of course tries to prevent the team playing offense to score runs. How does that happen? There are multiple ways.

“Strike out!!” How the pitcher tries to prevent runs.

There are many ways in which the defense can prevent runs. It first starts with the pitcher. The pitcher tries to throw the ball in a way it is impossible for the batter to hit the ball. That includes super fast throws, or throws that make the ball move to one side or towards the ground.

To level the playing field a bit, the ball needs to fly through the strike zone, which is an imaginary rectangle in front of the catcher. Check the picture below to see what it looks like.  

If the pitcher manages to throw the ball past the batter and through the strike zone, this is called a strike. If this happens three times, the batter is out and it is called a strike out. A strike also occurs, if the batter swings and misses the ball, even if the ball was not in the strike zone.

In case the ball is outside the strike zone and the batter does not swing, this is called a ball and does not count as a strike.

There are multiple more rules for batting and pitching, so make sure to check out the advanced rules post. These baseball rules nearly always lead to some heated discussion between players and umpires.

Force out, Fly out and more. How baseball field players stop runs.

Let’s imagine for a second that the batter manages to hit the ball and does not get three strikes. As stated above he now becomes a baserunner und tries to reach the bases and come home. Has the team playing defense now lost their chance of stopping a run? Not at all. Actually now the fun part begins, as there are multiple ways for the baseball field players to prevent a run for the team playing offense.

The first way is to throw the ball back to first base (or second or third in case the offense player has already progressed this far) before the batter or another baserunner reaches the respective base. So in case the ball reaches the base before the batter, the batter is thrown out (also called forced out).

The batter can also be tagged out if he is touched by the fielder who is holding the ball while he is between bases. This can be effective sometimes, as some offense players are forced to run to the next base, because there is only ever one player allowed at one base. So imagine you are standing at first base and your buddy is batting. He hits the ball and runs to first base. Given that there is only one player allowed at one base at a time, he forces you to run to second base. This is know as force play. In the meantime the fielding team manages to throw the ball to second base, while you are still between first and second base. If the second base player now touches you with the ball in hand, you are tagged out.

Another option is the so called fly out. Here the ball is caught in the air by one of the fielding teams players. If this happens, the batter is out for sure.

Now there is also a special rule that applies for baserunners and fly balls. Imagine you are a second base, the batter hits the balls and you run to third base. Now somehow an infielder manages to catch the fly ball for an out (meaning to strike out the batter). If that happens, a force situation is automatically created for you as well. If the infielder now manages to throw the ball to second base, you are forced out. This can be prevented by tagging up, meaning that after the infielder caught the ball, you retouch your starting base, before you attempt to run for the next base. Don’t worry, it sounds much more complicated than it really is.

Here again the Infield Fly Rule can prevent this situation, if the umpire chooses to apply it.

Quarters, Sets or Innings?

A baseball game consists of nine innings. In contrast to other sports, an inning is not a limited amount of time, but instead ends once both teams played offense and defense.

But when do the teams switch roles? Good questions. This happens, once the offense team has three outs either by strike outs or any other way mentioned in the paragraph above.

This marks one half of an inning and the defense team gets to play offense.

Moreover there is no tie in baseball. If both teams have the same amount of runs after the regular nine innings, additional innings will be played, until one team wins.

But wait. If there is no time limit whatsoever and there is no tie, that means…. Yes. In theory a baseball game can go on forever. In reality the average baseball game takes three hours and five minutes, according to official statistics from the MLB. That is plenty of time to enjoy some hot dogs and to reread this article, in case you forgot something.

Get home safe,


2 replies on “How to play baseball: A guide to understanding the baseball rules”

  1. Thanks for this guide. Baseball is a team game played by two teams of nine players each on an enclosed Baseball field under the direction of a manager in accordance with rules.

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