Baseball is one of the most popular sports in America. Even if you’re just a beginner, it’s important to know the rules so that you can enjoy the game more and keep up with what’s happening on the field. In this post, we’ll cover 5 basic baseball rules that every player should know before stepping onto the diamond!
The most important rule in baseball is to always have fun! As you progress and learn more about the game, you can start following the other rules. But remember that the most important thing is to enjoy yourself while playing.
5 Basic Baseball Rules for Beginners
- Players Allowed on the Field
There are nine players allowed on the baseball field for the defending team.
Naturally, each baseball league has its own set of regulations regarding the batting order and extra players are permitted in some divisions, but the one constant restriction across all baseball leagues is that a maximum of nine players can play on defense with its own position and role.
- 1st baseman – this player is in charge of receiving throws from the catcher and must be ready to catch any ball hit near them.
- Left fielder – this player stands along the left side of the field, opposite from home plate. They are responsible for catching fly balls that go over their head or land on their half of the outfield grass. This position also covers a bit of the infield grass, making sure that anything on their half of the outfield doesn’t end up in a base.
- Center fielder – these players stand right behind home plate and are responsible for catching balls hit over both left and right fielders. They need to cover as much ground as possible so they can leave enough time for fly balls near them to be caught.
- Right fielder – this player stands on the right side of the field, opposite from home plate. They are responsible for catching fly balls that go over their head or land on their half of the outfield grass. This position also covers a bit of the infield grass, making sure that anything in front of them doesn’t end up with an infielder.
- 2nd baseman – this player is responsible for fielding ground balls hit near them and also covering first base if the ball is hit to the first baseman.
- Shortstop – this player stands in between second and third base, which is why they’re often called the “keystone” position. They are responsible for fielding ground balls as well as turning double plays (two outs recorded on the same play).
- 3rd baseman – this player stands on the left side of the infield, across from second base. They’re responsible for fielding any ground balls hit near them and covering third base if a ball is hit to the third baseman or pitcher.
- Pitcher – this player throws the ball to their catcher, who then tries to throw it and catch the batter out. If they’re not able to do that, then they can just record a strikeout by throwing three balls outside of the strike zone.
- Catcher – these players receive pitches from the pitcher and try to put them in play to get batters out. They also cover home plate and can throw runners out that try to reach the next base during a play.
- Ball and Strikes
A ball is a pitch that’s thrown outside of the strike zone and doesn’t result in a hit. If the batter doesn’t swing at it, then they get awarded first base. Four balls equal a walk, which means the player can move to the next base without hitting the ball.
A strike is any pitch that’s thrown inside the strike zone and the batter swings at it. If they don’t swing, then it’s called a “strikeout.” Three strikes equal an out.
Fielding Fly Balls
When there is a fly ball hit in the air, the players have to decide who will catch it. The outfielder closest to where the ball was hit usually goes after it, but sometimes another outfielder can get there before them and make the catch.
When a ball is hit in the air, any player on defense other than the catcher can field it if they’re closer to where it lands than any infielders.
If an infielder gets to it first, then only they or one of their teammates should go after it. This is because they are in a better position to make the out at first base. If the Fly Ball is caught before landing on the ground, it is an “out” just like a foul ball.
A foul ball is a ball that’s hit outside of the playing field or one that’s hit in the air and lands in fair territory but is touched by a player from either team while it’s still in play. If it’s caught, then it’s out. If it isn’t caught, then the batter gets another chance to hit it.
- Tag Up Rule
If a batter hits the ball into fair territory but it’s caught before they reach first base, then the runners are required to make their way back to their original base. This is called the “tag up” rule. If they’re not able to make it back to their original base before being touched by a fielder, then they’re out.
If there’s an infield fly rule while runners are on base, then all of them must go back and stay at their original bases until it’s clear that the ball isn’t going to land in fair territory. This is called “playing the infield fly“.
- Force Outs
If a runner is on base and the ball is hit to an infielder, then they can try to get them out by touching the base while holding onto the ball. This is called a “force out“. If there’s already someone on that base, then the runner who was just hit with the ball is automatically out.
Are there any other instances where force out is applicable?
No, but there is a similar play if a runner is trying to steal second base and the catcher throws the ball to the baseman who is covering that base, then the runner can be out by being touched with the ball while they’re not on a base. This is called a “tag out”.
- Tag Outs
If a runner is on base and the ball is hit to an outfielder, they can try to get them out by touching the runner with the ball while they’re not on a base. This is called a “tag out.” If they’re successful, then the runner is out.
What’s the difference between force outs and tag outs?
Force outs are applied when a runner is on base and the ball goes to an infielder who can touch them while holding onto the ball. If there’s already someone on that base, then it becomes a force out.
Tag outs are only used if runners try to steal bases or run past first/second base during play outside of their initial running lane.
Rules for Base Runners
- Base runners can’t steal a base until after the pitcher has released the ball and it’s in flight, meaning they have to time their running so that doesn’t happen. If there’s already someone on first or second base when one of those outs happens then those runners must return to those bases.
- If the ball is hit in play then they can go after it, but if it’s an infield fly rule then everyone needs to stay at their original base until it’s clear that the ball isn’t going to land in fair territory. If a fielder gets them out by touching any of those bases while holding onto the baseball, this counts as a tag out.
- If there’s an overthrow while they’re running, then they can continue to run until they’re either out or they make it to the next base safely. If they get picked off at any time, then they’re automatically out.
- Base runners can also be called out if they leave their base before the ball is hit, if they fail to tag up after a fly ball is caught outside of the playing field, or if they do anything that’s not within baseball rules.
Basic Baseball Rules for Beginners
Baseball has many different base runners who all have their own set of ground rules and regulations to follow when running between bases. These can be confusing for beginners, so it’s best to start with the basics and work your way up.
As you get more comfortable with the game, then you can add in more complex rules. But for now, these five basic baseball rules should suffice.
Keep in mind that different leagues may have their own variations of these rules, so always be sure to check ahead of time.
In the event that a runner collides with a fielder, then they will likely be called out because it’s considered “intentional contact“. If a catch happens outside of playing field boundaries or if someone gets too close to the action and interferes, this is also grounds for an automatic out. This is according to Rule 7.09 – Interference.
Baseball is a difficult game, and new players need all of the assistance they can get. Here are some basic ideas for novices:
- You can’t swing at a pitch if it’s not in the strike zone
- If you hit the ball into fair territory, then you have to run to first base
- If a fielder catches the ball before it lands, then you’re out
- If a fielder touches the base while holding onto the ball, then you’re out
- If there’s already someone on base and you get hit with the ball, then you’re automatically out
These are just some of the most important things to remember when playing this game. As with any sport, practice makes perfect so the more you play, the better your skills will be.
Now that you know the basic baseball rules, it’s time to put them into practice. Go out and play with some friends or join a league and see how far you can progress.
Baseball is a challenging but rewarding game, so don’t be afraid to give it a try. And remember, if you have any questions or concerns, always check the rulebook before you play. It’s important to know what you’re doing and how to do it right!