Introduction to Major League Baseball
Baseball : An introduction to the Big leagues
“You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball”
Baseball is a simple game. Yes, it has become incredibly complicated in a variety of areas but the game itself, boiled down to its’ core, is very simple. There is a batter who stands at home plate and pitcher who stands on a mound sixty feet, six inches away. The batter is trying to reach base and the pitcher is trying to get him out. Those two desired outcomes will never change.
This article assumes that you, the reader, knows baseball on a fundamental level. If you don’t then I encourage you to click here to read about the rules, the setup and how a game is played.
The highest level of professional baseball is Major League Baseball, also known as MLB. 30 teams across two leagues play 162 games in a regular season from April to October. This establishes a seeding order for a playoff. In October, five teams in each league play in a single elimination tournament until a champion is crowned in the American and National League. Once those two teams are decided they meet in what is known as the World Series.
The World Series has been played been since 1884, although most don’t acknowledge a true World Series format until the modern era of baseball began in 1903.
“Ballparks like Cathedrals”
Baseball teams play in stadiums known as ballparks. The unique thing about ballparks is each one is different. The rules of associated to a baseball field are universal in several areas. For example, all bases are 90 feet apart. But the dimensions of a baseball field are distinct to each individual ballpark. This is what makes visiting different ballparks such a tourist attraction.
In Boston at Fenway Park there is a 37-foot wall in left field known as the Green Monster. In Chicago at Wrigley Field, the outfield wall is covered in ivy that grows over brick. In Miami, home to the Miami Marlins, there is 65-foot sculpture that stands beyond the wall in left-center field. It lights up and shoots water when a home run is hit.
The ballparks that have been around for decades are the ones that draw the most nostalgia from fans. Fenway Park, home to the Boston Red Sox, has been open since 1912. Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs, was built in 1914. Every year thousands of baseball enthusiasts make the pilgrimage to Boston and Chicago to experience a ball game at those two ballparks.
“Million Dollar Arm”
A pitcher stands on a mound sixty feet-six inches away from the batter. He is responsible for the start of each play. Nothing happens in baseball until a pitch is delivered to a batter. This is one of the reasons that baseball is so unique. At its’ heart, baseball is a one-on-one game. Yes, after the ball is put into play, the fielders behind the pitcher are crucial to the play’s outcome but how a ball is hit usually depends on the quality of the pitch. This battle between pitcher and hitter happens hundreds of times a night in a game.
Pitchers in MLB are considered highly valuable with the best pulling down salaries that exceed $30 million US dollars per season. The best pitcher of the last several years plays for the Los Angeles Dodgers, his name is Clayton Kershaw. He has won the Cy Young award for best pitcher three times and was so good in 2014 that he won the National League MVP as well, which is incredibly rare for a pitcher to do.
“Go Knock the Cover Off the Ball!”
The batter stands in the batter box to the left or right of home plate. With each pitch, the batter has to make a split-second decision whether or not to swing. There are only two outcomes to an at-bat for a hitter. He is either out or he will reach base safely. For the hitter, the goal is to always reach base safely. But there is a better chance to score runs when the quality of the hit is higher.
For a hitter, the best outcome is the home run. And within that, the home run provides the most dramatic of moments in all of baseball. It is the few seconds that exist after a ball is hit and everyone is waiting to see if it will clear the fence.
The best hitter in baseball also plays in Los Angeles but for a different team, the Angels. Mike Trout can do everything. He’s incredibly fast in the field and on the base paths. But what he does at the plate makes him a dynamic and special player. With two American League MVP awards under his belt, Trout is well on his way to becoming the best hitter of this generation.
“How Can You not be Romantic about Baseball?”
The reason that baseball has endured in America for over a century rests solely on how the game is passed from generation to generation. Sons grow up playing catch with their fathers. During these times, the father passes along the lessons learned from their father. That time between the two is special, creating memories that sharpen over the course of a lifetime.
Usually the father passes the love of one MLB team to his son. As a family, their emotions ride a roller-coaster based upon how the team is playing. These fans, united by their love of their team, are usually suffering due to how incredibly hard it is to win a World Series. There was no better example of this misery than the collective angst shared by fans of the Chicago Cubs.
The Chicago Cubs entered the 2016 season, not having won a World Series in 107 years. They had been dubbed the “Lovable Losers,” with several near-misses along the way, Cubs fans believed that their team was cursed. But in 2016, all of that changed. In a dramatic seven game series, the Cubs defeated the Cleveland Indians for the World Series title.
Stories began to filter out into the media about how fans experienced that final title-clenching game. One middle age son sat next to his father’s grave with a small radio on the ground, listening to the game, fulfilling a promise he made with the man who taught him to love the Cubs. There were hundreds of stories like that one. The Cubs title brought them together in a way that only baseball could.