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Common Baseball Terms Defined

Aboard: On base. When there are runners safely on base, there are runners aboard – as if they had boarded a train or some other vehicle.

Ace: The best starting pitcher on the team.

Ahead in the count: A term that signifies whether the batter or pitcher possesses the advantage in an at-bat.

Around the horn:The infielders' practice of throwing the ball to each other after recording an out (provided that there are no runners on base).

Away: Games played at an opponent's home field are "away games". The visiting team is sometimes called the "away" team.

Backstop: The fence behind homeplate, designed to protect spectators from wild pitches or foul balls.

Bad hop: A ball that bounces in front of an infielder in an unexpected way, often as a result of imperfections in the field or the spin on the ball.

Bag: A base. Also, a two-bagger is a double or two-base hit; a three-bagger is a triple or three-base hit; a four-bagger is a home run.

Bases loaded: Runners on first, second, and third base.

Basement: Last place, bottom of the standings.

Bat around: When each of the nine players in the lineup makes a plate appearance during a single inning.

Batter's box: A rectangle on either side of home plate in which the batter must be standing for fair play to resume.

Batting average: Batting average (BA) is the average number of hits per at-bat (BA=H/AB). A perfect batting average would be 1.000 (read: "one thousand"). A batting average of .300 ("three hundred") is considered to be excellent, which means that the best hitters fail to get a hit in 70% of their at-bats. Even the level of .400, which is outstanding and rare (last achieved at the major league level in 1941), suggests "failure" 60% of the time. This is part of the reason OBP is now regarded by "figger filberts" as a truer measure of a hitter's worth at the plate. In 1887, there was an experiment with including bases-on-balls as hits (and at-bats) in computing the batting average. It was effectively an early attempt at an OBP, but it was regarded as a "marketing gimmick" and was dropped after the one year. It eventually put Adrian Anson in limbo regarding his career hits status; dropping the bases on balls from his 1887 stats, as some encyclopedias do, put his career number of hits below the benchmark 3,000 total.

Behind in the count: For the batter: when the count contains more strikes than balls. For the pitcher: vice versa.

Bench: "The bench" is where the players sit in the dugout when they are not at bat, in the on-deck circle, or in the field.

Bender: A curveball.

Big leagues: A nickname for Major League Baseball

Bleeder: A weakly hit ground ball that goes for a base hit. A scratch hit.

Blow: To blow a game is to lose it after having the lead.

Blue: A derogatory term commonly used by players to address an umpire, referring to the typical dark blue color of the umpire's uniform.

Bottom of the inning: The second half or "last half" of an inning, during which the home team bats, derived from its position in the line score.

Chatter: To verbally challenge or taunt to distract the opposing batter.

Checked swing: A batter checks a swing by stopping it before the bat crosses the front of home plate.

Choke up: A batter "chokes up" by sliding his hands up from the knob end of the bat to give him more control over his bat.

Clear the bases: A batter who drives home all the runners on base is said to "clear the bases."

Closer: A relief pitcher who is consistently used to "close" or finish a game by getting the final outs.

Corked bat: A bat in which cork (or possibly rubber or some other elastic material) has been inserted into the core of the wooden barrel.

Curveball: A pitch that curves or breaks from a straight or expected flight path toward home plate.

Cut-off man: A fielder that "cuts off" a long throw to an important target. Often the shortstop, second baseman, or first baseman

Dugout: The dugout is where a team's bench is located.

Early innings: The first three innings of a regulation nine-inning game.

Fat pitch: A pitch that is located exactly where the hitter is expecting it.

Find a hole: To get a base hit by hitting the ball between infielders.

Force play: When a runner must advance to another base (after a hit) or retouch (after a fly out), a tag on the baserunner is not required.

Full count: A count of 3 balls and 2 strikes; another strike will result in a strikeout, while another ball will result in a walk.

Fungo bat: A lightweight bat with a long, skinny barrel used to hit fungoes.

Golfing: Swinging at an obviously low pitch, particularly one in the dirt.

Goodbye Mr. Spalding!: Exclamation by a broadcaster when a batter hits a home run.

Goose egg: A zero on the scoreboard.

Hack: To swing awkwardly at the ball.

Hit the dirt: To slide.

Hole in his glove: A tendency to drop fly balls, usually after they hit (and seem to go through) the fielder's glove.

Infield fly rule: The umpire calls the batter out when (a) there are less than two outs in the inning, and (b) the batter hits a fly ball that can be caught by an infielder in fair territory, and (c) there are runners on first and second or the bases are loaded.

Infielder: First baseman, second baseman and third baseman, plus the shortstop

Inning: An inning consists of two halves. In each half, one team bats until three outs are made.

Late innings: The seventh, eighth and ninth innings of a regulation nine-inning game.

Lineup: The batting order, which also lists each player's defensive position.

Middle innings: The fourth, fifth and sixth innings of a regulation nine-inning game.

Middle reliever: A relief pitcher who is brought in typically during the middle-innings (4, 5, and 6).

No-hitter: A game in which one team does not get any hits, a rare feat for a pitcher, especially at the major league level.

On-deck: The next batter due to bat after the current batter.

Outfielder: An outfielder is a player whose position is either left field, center field, or right field.

Pinch hitter: A substitute batter.

Pine tar: A sticky substance used by batters to improve their grip on the bat.

RBI: An RBI or "run batted in" is a run scored as a result of a hit.

Rubber arm: A pitcher is said to have a "rubber arm" if he can throw many pitches without tiring.

Touch all the bases: To "touch all the bases" (or "touch 'em all") is to hit a home run.

Utility player: A player (usually a bench player) who can play several different positions.

Wild card (sports): In Major League Baseball, the wild-card playoff spot is given to the team in each league with the best regular season record among divisional second-place teams. MLB was the final sport (1994) to adopt the wild card and to this day has the fewest wildcards (two) of the four major US team sports. As a comparison, on the other extreme, the NHL and NBA both have 10 wildcards each.