Baseball: A Lexicon

From spring training and opening day right up through the World Series, baseball (a.k.a. our national pastime) is a sport with rabid fans. It's also known for having plenty of downtime, so why not practice the language of the game during the many hours it'll take to wrap up all nine innings?

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definitions & notes only words
  1. average
    the ratio of successful performances to opportunities
    The result was a career-low .232 batting average and only 12 home runs and 50 RBIs, quite a dip from the previous season when he wound up as World Series MVP for the Chicago Cubs.Washington Times (Feb 20, 2018)
  2. base
    a place that the runner must touch before scoring
    Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez was notorious last season for frequently visiting pitchers with runners on second base.New York Times (Feb 19, 2018)
    Base has several meanings, but in life and baseball, they often involve origins or home. A base can be the foundation of something, like a soup base that kickstarts the recipe. A military base is where soldiers are stationed. In baseball, the game is named for the four bases that create a diamond shape: first base, second base, third base, and home base, which would be a redundant term if not for the other bases. When a runner is on any base, they’re safe. Base is related to basics.
  3. bunt
    act of hitting a baseball lightly without swinging the bat
    Let Chris Taylor hit away with runners on first and second in the sixth when the situation screamed sacrifice bunt?Washington Times (Nov 1, 2017)
  4. designate
    give an assignment to someone
    The plan is to install him at the top of a six-man starting rotation, with three or four days a week spent as a designated hitter in their lineup.Washington Post (Feb 14, 2018)
    To designate is to give something or someone a specific name or status. In baseball, the designated hitter (DH) is someone whose job is only to hit. In Major League Baseball, the American League has a DH, but the National League does not. This is why pitchers, even though they’re usually not very good hitters, have to take their turn at bat in the National League.
  5. steal
    advance a base safely during the delivery of a pitch
    Davis led the American League with 43 stolen bases for Cleveland in 2016.Washington Times (Feb 17, 2018)
    Stealing is, of course, taking something that doesn’t belong to you, which makes you a thief, a robber, and a scofflaw. But in baseball, stealing is encouraged, at least if you’re a fan of the team batting: base runners can steal bases. The idea is that a super-quick runner can make it to the next base before the pitcher realizes and tries to get him out. This is a risky move even if you’re Olympic-level fast, because no one is faster than a baseball, and pitchers are wise to these shenanigans.
  6. signal
    any action or gesture that encodes a message
    Investigators for Major League Baseball determined that the Red Sox executed a scheme to illicitly steal hand signals from the Yankees’ catchers.New York Times (Sep 15, 2017)
    A signal is used to communicate: a white flag signals surrender, and a thumbs-up means everything is cool. In baseball, the manager uses signals — also called signs, like in sign language — to tell pitchers which type of pitch to throw, to let base runners know if they should steal or not, and maybe to inform the right fielder that the announcers noticed he was picking his nose. In 2017, the Boston Red Sox got in some trouble for stealing signals (cracking the code) against the New York Yankees.
  7. slug
    strike heavily, especially with the fist or a bat
    Having turned down chances to slug for the Cardinals and Giants, the big-bopping Stanton got a trade he liked.Seattle Times (Dec 10, 2017)
  8. strike
    a pitch that is swung at and missed or is over the plate
    And, his contact rate with pitches outside of the strike zone went down.Washington Times (Dec 18, 2017)
    To strike something is to hit it. When you’re mad, you might strike the wall, though I wouldn’t recommend it, since that’s bad for hands and walls. In baseball, a strike is kind of the opposite: when the pitcher fires the ball past the batter, who swings and misses, it’s a strike. Three strikes equals a strikeout, which means you’re out. From baseball, this has become a more general term for failure. In baseball or life, three strikes means you’re headed to the bench (or possibly prison).
  9. statistics
    a branch of mathematics concerned with quantitative data
    Statistics are used to judge the two because statistics mean everything in baseball.Washington Times (Jan 25, 2018)
  10. rotation
    a planned recurrent sequence (of crops or personnel etc.)
    The plan is to install him at the top of a six-man starting rotation, with three or four days a week spent as a designated hitter in their lineup.Washington Post (Feb 14, 2018)
    Rotation refers to the process of turning: if a wheel is going around, it’s rotating. Metaphorically, we use the concept of rotation for situations where people take turns, and that’s important for baseball. The pitchers need time to rest their arms, so they have a rotation: an order they pitch in. When it’s your turn in the rotation, you pitch. When it’s not, you should probably avoid arm-wrestling contests, because that precious arm is your livelihood.
  11. pastime
    an interest or pursuit that someone pursues regularly
    It is time to play fair, starting with our national pastime.Washington Post (Dec 30, 2016)
  12. roster
    a list of names
    The Dodgers and the Angels enter the three-game Freeway Series beginning Thursday in different states of readiness in terms of their opening-day rosters.Los Angeles Times (Mar 29, 2017)
  13. foul
    not hit in fair territory, in baseball
    A hit batter and a groundball single up the middle preceded Cruz’s go-ahead homer, which barely stayed inside the left field foul pole.Washington Post (Mar 11, 2017)
  14. series
    several contests played successively by the same teams
    According to this metric, the Cubs will end their 0-year World Series drought, as they...Wall Street Journal (Mar 30, 2017)
  15. league
    an association of sports teams that organizes matches
    Oakland’s Rickey Henderson alone led the American League that year with 100 stolen bases while Montreal’s Ron LeFlore led the National League with 97.The Guardian (Mar 30, 2017)
  16. pitch
    the act of throwing a baseball to a batter
    Former starter and relief pitcher Jim Bouton, author of baseball’s all-time bestseller, Ball Four, thinks it’s ridiculous that relievers should be allowed eight warm-up pitches.The Guardian (Mar 30, 2017)
  17. hustle
    get by trying hard
    Hustle! Hustle! Hustle!” one child implored a teammate.Washington Times (Dec 17, 2016)
  18. dugout
    a shelter beside a baseball field for players and coaches
    Both benches emptied briefly, but order was quickly restored and umpires warned both dugouts.New York Times (Mar 21, 2017)
  19. mound
    (baseball) the slight elevation on which the pitcher stands
    The next batter worked the count to 3-0, at which point sophomore catcher Mark Kline began to approach the mound.Washington Post (Mar 25, 2017)
  20. balk
    an illegal pitching motion while runners are on base
    “Personally, I don’t think I balked, but, umpire’s discretion, that’s his call.”Washington Post (Mar 25, 2017)
Created on March 30, 2017 (updated March 28, 2019)

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