With the MLB announcing they will be playing two regular season games in Sydney next year, USSDU takes a look at America's pastime.
I always viewed baseball as a poor man's version of cricket, but after watching it for a few years I now appreciate the subtle nuances of the game and the tense moments it can bring.
Now, I'd recommend baseball to any Aussie sports fan, but there's some things you need to know about it first.
Here's an introduction to the game, for those not familiar with it.
As with every game (except golf) the aim is to score more than your opponent. Nine fielders take on a line-up of nine batters over nine innings, each divided into two half inning (both team bat and field once in each inning).
There is no toss of a coin as the away team always bats first. In order to score you need to advance your batters through all three bases during the inning and tag home base without being tagged, caught or thrown out.
A successful hit will result in a batter reaching one or multiple bases without the fielding team getting the ball to the man positioned on base before the batter arrives. Alternatively the batter can earn a "walk" by successfully seeing off four misguided pitches.
Each team has three outs to try and score before the inning ends. A player can be out by hitting it on the full to a fielder, not making it to base before the fielding side gets the ball there, "striking out" by earning three strikes or being tagged out by the fielding side.
The fielding team consists of a pitcher, catcher, three outfielders, three basemen and a shortstop positioned in between the bases.
The Major League Baseball competition is made up of 30 teams split into two leagues, the American (AL) and National (NL), where each team plays 162 regular season games from April through to September.
Each league is divided into three divisions (AL/NL East, Central and West) with the playoffs played between the division winners and the winner of a wildcard game (full details here
The American League differs slightly in that each team is allowed a designated hitter in place of the pitcher. This is unique in professional sports that the same game has two sets of rules for different leagues.
Walk - A walk occurs where the pitcher throws four balls outside the strike zone. This gives the batter a free passage to first base.
Strike Zone - The strike zone is the general area the pitcher tries to aim at to get a strike called. It's boundaries range vertically from half way between the batter's shoulder and the top of their pants to their knees and horizontally over the home plate.
Sacrifice - A sacrifice is where the batter will sacrifice an out in order to advance a runner. The thinking behind this is that the fielding side has the best chance of getting a runner out at first base because it takes longer to get to first due to the batter having to hit the ball and then run.
If a ground ball is hit then the fielding side may elect to throw out a runner at another base but they risk the runner getting to base safely. A sacrifice can also mean hitting a fly ball to an outfielder and after the catch is made the on base runner sprints to the next base before the fielder can get the ball to the on base fielder.
This tactic is very effective in advancing runners to scoring positions (second and third base) and also scoring runs.
Foul Ball - A foul is called when a batter hits a ball that is not in bound. A legal hit can only be in front of the lines connecting home plate and 1st & 3rd bases. Anything behind that is deemed foul and counts as a strike until two strikes are called, after that it doesn't count and the batter gets another shot.
Double Play - The double play occurs when the fielding side can throw out two batters in one play. The most common double play is where there is a runner on 1st base and the batter hits the ball to the shortstop, who then throws to the 2nd base fielder, who then throws to the first base fielder.
It is a heart crushing play for the batting side as they go from having one batter on base to having on batters on base and either two outs or the inning end.
Wild Pitch - A wild pitch is a pitch where the catcher cannot make a clean catch, usually because the pitch is not thrown correctly. Runners on base can advance if they wish but run the risk of being thrown out before they reach base.
Stolen Base - A batter can steal a base at any time except when a foul ball has been hit. A good base stealer will advance themselves while the pitcher is getting ready. This has the effect of disrupting the pitcher as they are constantly worried about the runner stealing a base and not on the batter at home plate.
Designated Hitter - The designated hitter bats in place of the pitcher (usually the worst batter on the team) and does not play a role when the team is fielding. Unique to the American League, it usually results in higher scores than a National League game.
Grand Slam - The Holy Grail for a batter, a grand slam is a home run hit with the bases loaded resulting in four runs scored.
No-Hitter - A very literal term, a no-hitter involves the pitcher pitching the whole game with no base hits from the opposition.
Perfect Game - A perfect game is where the pitcher allows no hits and does not walk any batters. This is extremely rare and in 135 years of MLB play there has only been 23 perfect games.
The most recent perfect game was thrown by Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners on August 15, 2012.
While the game may not be fast paced as the NBA or NHL, it has a certain appeal to it. Like soccer, the action comes in spurts and the build-up is almost as good as the final play.
Factoring in the time difference it is a perfect way to spend your morning/noon by subscribing to MLB.tv (special $20 deal for the rest of the season at www.mlb.tv
) and either having a game on in the background at work or listening to the radio coverage.
If you are looking to fill the void in between the NBA/NHL season then look no further than Major League Baseball.