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Sports 101

The baseball season is under way, with the possibility of new records being set. Is this the year a player will top Roger Maris's record of 61 home runs?

Here are some questions and answers to help you understand the game better.

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Q: How can a batter get on base?

A: 1. Hitting a fair ball not caught by a defensive player.

2. Bunting the ball.

3. A walk: The umpire calls four pitches out of the strike zone (also called "four balls").

4. Home run.

5. A third strike skips past the catcher, and the batter beats the throw to first (a passed ball or wild pitch).

6. The batter is hit by a pitch.

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7. Force-out (the batter hits a fair ball, and his teammate is tagged out or "forced out" at another base, but the batter is safe at first base).

8. The catcher obstructs the batter's swing.

Q: What does it mean when an announcer says the count is "one-and-oh" (1-0) when a batter is at the plate?

A: The first number always refers to the number of balls (a pitch that does not enter the strike zone), and the second refers to strikes. The numbers change after each pitch, except when the batter has two strikes and he hits the ball foul. When the "count is full," it's 3-2.

Q: Can the pitcher deliver the ball to the plate while the batter is going through his pre-pitch preparations? In other words, can a pitcher try to sneak the ball past a hitter?

A: No. According to "Official Baseball Rules, 1998 Edition," this is called a "quick pitch," which is illegal and can be dangerous. Umpires will judge a quick pitch as one delivered before the batter is reasonably set in the batter's box.

Q: What is a squeeze play?

A: When a hitter attempts to score a runner from third base with a bunt. If the runner leaves third before the hitter makes contact with the ball, it is called a suicide squeeze. In the safety squeeze, the runner waits for the hitter to make contact before racing toward home.

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