Guide   |   Glossary   |   FAQs

The GIST's Guide to Baseball

Contrary to popular belief, baseball isn’t just about drinking beer, having a hot dog and eating peanuts.

GIF - Houston pitcher looking confused and swearing


Baseball is America’s national pastime. Why? Well, it quite literally passes time. The average length of a baseball game is just over three hours of continuous fun.

Baseball is played on a field shaped like a diamond (its other name) with a base on each corner. A team scores a point (referred to as runs) when one of their players is able to make it all the way around the diamond and back to home plate. The team with the most runs at the end of the game, wins!

Rather than periods or quarters, baseball is divided into nine innings, each with a top and a bottom half. At the beginning of an inning, the visiting team goes up to bat while the home team sends nine players into the field to play defence. Then the teams switch to play the bottom of an inning. It’s an advantage to be the last team up to bat because you have the last chance for a comeback win!

An inning is over after three outs (strikes out on pitches, is thrown out at the plate or their ball is caught in the air). And if the game is tied after nine innings, the game goes into extra innings until a winner can be decided.

But our fave part baseball? It’s got to be the 7th inning stretch.

How is baseball organized?

Baseball is played all over the world, however the most popular league in the world is Major League Baseball (MLB) located in North America. There are 30 teams in the MLB, but just one Canadian team, the Toronto Blue Jays (shout out!). The league is divided into the National (NL) League and the American League (AL) which are further divided into three divisions: Central, East, and West.

Here’s where things get a little confusing (but that’s what you’ve got us for!). The AL and NL each have a slightly different set of rules they follow. For instance, in the NL, pitchers also come up to the plate to bat, but they don’t in the AL. Instead, the AL has a “designated hitter”, or DH, that comes up to bat.

There are 162 regular season games (that’s not a typo… the MLB has by far the longest season in major league sports), followed by the playoffs. Ten teams, five from the NL and five from the AL, make it into the postseason where all of the players’ blood, sweat, tears and bat flips go into winning the World Series (the MLB championship). More on the playoff structure here.

Who’s the current champ?

The Boston Red Sox won the World Series in 2018, defeating the LA Dodgers 4 games to 1! It was also their fourth World Series win since 2004 (!!!) and had people calling them the team of the century. Unreal.

Looking at 2019…

This season, keep your eye on Bryce Harper (Philadelphia Phillies right field), Mike Trout (LA Angels centrefield and the highest paid athlete in baseball), Manny Machado (San Diego Padres third baseman and shortstop) and Klayton Kershaw (LA Dodgers pitcher).

And expect big things from the defending champion Boston Red Sox, the back-to-back runner-up LA Dodgers, the New York Yankees and the Houston Astros.

What about the Jays?

The Toronto Blue Jays were founded in 1977 (but didn’t serve beer until 1982) and have won two World Series championships, back-to-back in ‘92 and ‘93, but haven’t had much luck since. Their best recent efforts came in 2015 and 2016, winning the AL East title in both seasons, but posted losing records every season since.

The rebuild is officially in full swing—that’s when a team trade away their older talent and starts to build again with young up-and-comers. Keep your eye on 21-year-old shortstop Bo Bichette and 20-year-old third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr., affectionately known as '“Vladdy Jr”, who you might recognize thanks to his superstar father (same name) who played the majority of his MLB career with the Montreal Expos (when Montreal used to have a team). Rebuilds can take time, but we have high hopes for the future of this squad.

Women who bat

For whatever reason, women do not have a pro league for “hardball” (another name for baseball). Instead, women pay softball professionally—a similar game but with a bigger ball where pitchers throw underhand. Fun fact: Canadian hockey superstar and Hockey Hall of Fame inductee, Hayley Wickenheiser, ALSO played for the Canadian softball team in the Olympics. What can’t this woman do? Hint: the answer is nothing.

Channel your inner fan!

Baseball is a statistician’s dream. We seriously invite you to watch Moneyball to see what we’re talking about. Otherwise, here are some fun stats:

  • The lifespan of a MLB baseball is only 5-7 pitches, meaning about 70 baseballs are used during a game. Just wild.

  • The New York Yankees have the most World Series titles, winning 27 in their 116 year history (yup, you read that right).

  • Unfortunately, no woman has ever played in an MLB game and sports executive Effa Louise Manley (1897–1981) is the first and only woman inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. ‘Atta be, Effa!

Don't get The GIST’s free twice-weekly newsletter yet? Let's make it email official.


Guide   |   Glossary   |   FAQs   |  Back to Top


Top of the INNING:

Each team gets a chance to bat (hit the ball), and a chance to field (play defence). The top of the inning is when the visiting team is up to bat.

Bottom of the INNING:

...and the bottom of the inning is when the home team is up to bat.


A run is scored when a player makes it all the way around the diamond (first base, second base, third base and back to home plate where they started).

Extra Innings:

There are nine innings (where each team gets a turn to bat and a turn to field) in a baseball game. If it’s tied at the end of the nine innings, they play more innings until there is a winner.

Up to bat:

A players turn to hit the ball.


Stands for ‘earned runs average’ and is used to determine how effective a pitcher is. Basically, you count up the amount of runs a pitcher allows per inning, and average that amount out over the nine innings. The lower the better.


Stands for ‘runs batted in’. An RBI occurs when you or one of your teammates who is already on base comes around to score a run. For example, Lisa is up to bat and hits a home run while her teammates Linda and Lucy are on first and third. Lisa scores three RBIs.

RBIs count even if you get out! Like by using a sac fly (see below).


To end an inning, a team must get three players “out”. You get people out by catching ball before it bounces, by touching the base or player before they can make it to a base, or when the pitcher throws three strikes.

Double Play:

Getting two players out on the same play. You’ll hear commentators say “inning ending 6, 4, 3 double play”. In this instance, it means that the baseball was hit to the shortstop, who threw it to the second baseman, who stepped on the base to get the runner from first to second out. Then, the second baseman threw it to the first baseman who has his foot on the bag (base) to get the runner from home to first out. Click here for a visual of the numbers in correlation with the positions in baseball.

Sac Fly:

Sac is short for SACrifice. This means that the person at bat literally “sacrifices” themselves for the good of the team by hitting the ball as high and as far away from the infield as they can so that his teammate can advance. Once the ball is caught, the teammate can tag up (see below) and run to the next. So the farther away the ball is hit, the better!

Vs. Pop Fly:

Contrary to a sac fly, a pop fly is by accident. Woops. It’s when the ball is hit high into the air and the fielder catches it.

Tag Up:

After a sac or pop fly, a player can run BUT they must tag up to the base they’re on first. This means they have to wait until the ball is caught, touch their base and THEN sprint their lil’ hearts out to the one.

Strike Zone:

The strike zone is anywhere over home plate and anywhere between the knees and in the middle of the torso (technically halfway between the hips and the shoulders). This is what the strike zone is supposed to be but many pitchers think the “umps are blind” and don’t call the pitch correctly.


AKA umps. He’s the big guy or gal in charge. He stands behind the catcher calling all the balls, strikes, fouls and outs. The ump has three supporting umps at each base (up to 6 total in important games), but ultimately, he gets to make the final decision.


SSTTTTEEE-RIKE - this is when a player doesn’t swing at the ball when it’s in the strike zone OR when a player swings at the ball but misses OR when they hit a ball foul (only for 1st and 2nd strikes). And remember “for it’s one, two, three strikes you’re out at the ollllll’ balllll game” 


When the pitcher throws it outside of the strike zone and the player doesn’t hit it. Once the pitcher throws 4 balls, the player automatically get to go to first base. This is called a walk.


The playing field is essentially within a big triangle with the tip starting at home plate and goes to the outfield. The foul lines are the lines that are the outside of that triangle. All balls have to be hit within the foul posts in order to be considered in play. A ball can still be caught in foul territory (area outside of the triangle) to get a player out.


When the player hits the ball and is able to run to first base before the ball gets there. See guys, being single isn’t so bad!!


Similar to above, a double is when the player hits the ball and is able to bust his chops to get to first AND second base. A double is also awarded when the ball bounces and then goes over the back wall in the outfield. This is called a ground ruled double.


A triple is a rarity on the diamond. This happens when the player his the ball and runs THREE bases. Getting to third base is also a rarity IRL. *sigh*

Home Run:

A home run usually happens when a player hits the ball out of the park. This means they hit it beyond the wall/fence/marking of the diamond. A home run means they touch all four bases all the way to home plate. On very special occasions, there are in the park home runs, meaning the ball doesn’t leave the playing field. These normally happen because of errors made by the fielding team.

Walk Off:

Ok so picture this: you’re in the bottom of the 9th inning tied with the other team. You’re super nervous heading up to bat, because you know you represent the winning run. You absolutely smash the baseball and get a hit, home run, or grand slam, and are able to win the game!! So exciting!!! A “walk off” is basically the term used to describe that final action to win the game, so that you can ‘walk off’ of that field. You get it?


The player dun goofed costing his team to give up a base/run.


Innings Pitched. Another v simple acronym.


This is when a player is super sneaky and runs from first to second, second to third or RARELY third to home behind the pitchers back. A player has to be exceptionally fast to get to the next base without getting out. A steal is also finding anything at Club Monaco for under $50.


When a pitcher pretends like he’s going to pitch but then goes “JK dun feel like it” and stops his pitching motion. If the ump determines it’s a balk every player gets to advance 1 base.


When the coach/ general managers (GMs) don’t agree with a play on the field they to challenge the play. They get 1 challenge over the first 6 innings, and then two from the 7th inning until the end of the game. There are some MLB employees in an office in NYC that review the video with the ump and help decide what the call should be. Ruling on the field stands if there’s not enough evidence to change it.


Sometimes coaches, GMs and players simply get fired up after what they think is a poor call by the ump, or if they get chirping against the other team. It’s standard practice to get right up in the umps grill and tell him what he got wrong. Normally in those circumstances, they get thrown out of the game.

Batting average:

How many times you go up to bat divided by how many runs multiplied by 100. The higher the batting average the better.


Baseball “beauty’s” love their vocab. This term literally just means a well hit baseball (usually a home run).


Up to the “dish” is a phrase you’ll hear a lot. This also means up to the “plate”, which means it’s a players turn to bat.


“to field” the ball or “fielding” the ball just means that you’re the team playing defence. Your goal is to catch/ get the ball to the base the player is going to, to get the other team out.


The area of the field from the base-path inwards. If you picture a baseball diamond, the infield is the sandy part (the base path) inward.


Beyond the infield diamond. The 3 players in the outfield are responsible for catching those long balls and for throwing the ball back to the infield as fast as humanly possible.

7th Inning Stretch:

A sweet little point in the game in between the top and the bottom of the 7th inning where you literally get to have a stretch. The entire stadium generally sings the classic “take me out to the ball game” and then normally each home team also has their own lil’ diddy to get the fans singing. “Okay (okay) Blue Jays (blue jays) - LET’S PLAY BALL!”


Basically softball is a modified form of baseball. It’s played on a smaller field, but with a bigger ball and the pitcher throws underhand. It’s also only played over 7 innings...which is kind of sad b/c that means no 7th inning stretch!! :(


Softball where the pitch is thrown with some nice HEAT and you’re allowed to steal bases.

Slow Pitch:

Instead of throwing a pitch fast you throw it nice and slllooooowwwww with an arc 3 to 10 feet high. Also you’re not a allowed to be “mr steal your girl” and steal any bases.

Don't get The GIST twice-weekly newsletter yet? Let's make it email official. 


Guide   |   Glossary   |   FAQs   |  Back to Top


What do sports announcers mean when they say “stand-up triple”?

Great question. Similar to IRL, getting to third base is very hard to do. It’s even harder when a player does it at one at bat to get a triple. Normally players feel like they need to (cha-cha) slide into third base in order to beat the throw to the base. But, a stand-up triple means that a player didn’t have to slide and they could comfortably run “standing up” to third-base.

Why are numbers used when discussing a play a baseball? Like, what an announcer says, 5, 4, 3, inning ending double play”?

Wow. Another v good q. Each position in baseball is associated with a different “number”. You can check out the positions and the associated numbers here. A part of the reason why announcers use the numbers to call a play is because the ball moves SO FAST in baseball that there’s a zero percent chance that the announcer would be able to say “third-baseman, to shortstop to second baseman.  

Why do people say there’s a track in baseball fields? Isn’t that just in track and field?

Okay. So the track that I think you’re talking about is the “warning track” in the outfield. This track is basically an area that tells the outfielder they are closer to the end wall. This means they may need to jump high in order to save a home run, or gives the a warning that they may end up crashing into the back wall when trying to make the grab.

Why do pitchers walk batters on purpose (intentionally walk)?

Alright so this one kind of depends on the pitcher’s and the team’s strategy BUT for the most part the main reason is:

  1. The batter that’s coming up to bat is on FIRE and the pitcher doesn’t want to risk them getting more than a single. Sometimes, they’ll walk that player so that they can have a more favourable next at bat.

  2. This ALSO means, that a team can have a better chance at “turning a double play”. Think about it. Let’s say there’s already one out. To end the inning there needs to be two more outs. When a player is on first, they have no choice but to run to second when the player behind them gets a hit. Therefore, the idea is that they’ll have a better shot at getting the “lead runner” out.

Does that make sense?

What does “threw out” the first pitch mean?

At the beginning of every game, before the actual game starts, there’s always a ceremonial first pitch. These pitches can be thrown out by really anyone that the team chooses. From a regular joe all the way to a celeb.

What is a 3-run shot?

A three-run shot is basically a fancy way of the announcer saying that it was a three-run homerun which means that the batter, and two other players are base, all made it home thanks to the home run.  

Why does baseball sometimes take sooo long?

Well!! Baseball’s a nine-inning game with NO set timeline. It’s all base on outs. SO if those outs are taking a while to get, the games gonna take a long-time to get through. Seriously though, that’s why baseball is called America’s favourite past-time...because it literally passes time.

Remember the movie Moneyball? Does every team take that statistical approach these days?

Baseball is truly a statisticians dream. The game is all about stats, and finally teams are recognizing that math and statistics can actually help them on the diamond. It’s changed the way teams play defensively, changed the way pitchers throw a pitch, changed the way players baserun, and really all for the better.

Why do baseball players always grab their crotch?

LMFAO. We dunno! We wish they would stop though.

What’s a bunt?

A bunt, not be confused with blunt (which is only legal come October people), is when a batter takes a short swing so that the baseball normally stays within the infield. A bunt is normally a lot easier to control because a batter actually holds the bat differently so that they can place it to where they want it. They hold the bottom of the bat AND the top of the bat. A bunt is normally use as somewhat as a “sacrifice” so that a player already on base can easily advance. If you’re more of a visual person check them out here.

What’s up with the walk-up songs in baseball?

We love the walk-up songs! When each player comes up to bat, there tends to be a little clip of music that plays to get them “pumped up”. That is, this music is played for the home team. Normally a team gets to choose their walk up song, so you can learn more about the players style.

What’s a ‘save’ in baseball?

Throughout a baseball game, there’s generally more than one pitcher. Generally, when it gets into the 8th/9th innings and a team is up by a couple of runs, they call on their bullpen to bring out the closer. The closer are the pitchers who literally just “close” the game. These pitchers normally don’t have the stamina and/or consistency to pitch a full game or to start a game, but are great at getting players to strike out. When a closer comes in and successfully maintains a win, they call it a “save” in baseball. Sound good?!

Don't get The GIST weekly newsletter yet? Let's make it email official. 


Guide   |   Glossary   |   FAQs   |  Back to Top

Keep Reading

Basketball Guide, Glossary & FAQ

Basketball is made up of four quarters lasting 12 minutes each. Five players on each team are on the court at the same time. The point of the game is to shoot a basketball in a hoop to get the most baskets which = the most points. A basket counts as either two or three points, depending on how far the shooter was from the basket when she took the shot ... read more here.

Deep Dive on: #TakeAKnee

#TakeAKnee began back in summer ‘16, when San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick (pronounced CAP-ER-NICK), started kneeling during the national anthem in protest of racial inequality and police brutality toward people of colour... read more here.

The GIST's co-founders talk about their journey of creating a sports media business for women, by women. They'll cover everything from quitting their jobs to be entrepreneurs to being women in a male dominant sports industry... read more