Baseball is lovingly called “America’s Pastime” in part because of its status as America’s most popular sport during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Baseball has been surpassed by football as a spectator sport; but according to recent studies conducted by the Harvard/Yale School of Sports Studies and Sports Studies Unlimited, approximately 42 Million men and boys play baseball in the United States each year (sorry, girls and women not included in that statistic).
The actual origins of baseball are steeped in myth. According to John Thorn, noted baseball historian “The earliest mentions that we can find of baseball by old timers take you back to west-central Massachusetts in the 1750s, ’40s and in one citation 1735. The game has no record in the cities until, at the very earliest, 1805.” Different variations of the game were played in the 18th century in different parts of the country — New York, Philadelphia and Massachusetts each had their own versions. Eventually the New York game, which featured foul territory and making players stay on the base path while running, won out. The modern game of baseball had been born.
In 1903, a controversy erupted over baseball’s origins when British sportswriter Henry Chadwick published an article speculating that baseball derived from a British game called Rounders. But baseball executive Albert Spalding disagreed. To settle the matter, the two men appointed a commission, headed by Abraham Mills, the fourth president of the National League of Professional Baseball Clubs which also included six other, sports executives. After three years, they declared that Abner Doubleday invented the national pastime. This would have been a surprise to Doubleday but good PR probably led them to name the late Civil War hero.
Regardless of its origins and history baseball is a great game that works many different muscle groups, especially the arms, thighs and lower legs. This sport also develops hand-eye coordination, quick thinking and reaction skills.
Joining a team sport is an ideal way to make friends while at the same time getting a healthy dose of exercise.
Baseball is a game played between two teams with 9 players each. The baseball playing field consists of an in-field and outfield and has four bases the player has to reach to score a run. The four bases form a ‘Diamond’ and lie in infield portion of the playing area.
There is a catcher and four infielders: third base, shortstop (positioned between third and second base), second base (positioned between second and first base), and the first baseman. Three players normally roam the outfield (left, center and right).
Game play is broken up into 9 innings with each team being allowed 3 outs per inning. Team members attempt to hit the ball and advance to the bases. A team scores every time a player is able to circle the bases and cross home plate before three outs are made in an inning.
An out is recorded every time the ball is caught in the air, or in the case of a ground ball, a fielder gets the ball to a base before the runner reaches it, or if a batter gets three strikes (a foul ball counts as a strike but a player cannot be out on a foul ball unless it is caught by an opposing player).
A strike is a pitch that crosses the plate above the batter’s knees but below the lettering in his jersey, or anything he or she chooses to swing at but misses. Any other kind of pitch is called a ball.
Once the team in the field records three outs, the teams switch, and the team that was just in the field goes in to hit.
Every player in the lineup gets one at bat before the batting order starts over again.
Any exercise that gets your heart pumping and your body sweating is a cardiovascular exercise. Cardio exercise strengthens your heart muscle and improves lung capacity. Baseball affords plenty of opportunities for cardio exercise.
Muscle Strength. Swinging a baseball bat, throwing the ball and catching the ball build arm strength and improve joint flexibility. These activities involve all the muscles of the arms, including the biceps, triceps, and the muscles of the chest and shoulders. Baseball recruits all of the major muscle groups in your legs.
Moving laterally, throwing and squatting down to retrieve a ball engages your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings and calf muscles.
Calorie Burn. Regular physical activity also boosts your metabolism to help your body burn calories all day long and reduces body fat. Baseball players also have to run a lot, especially during training sessions. Swinging the bat, running the bases, catching the ball, and even walking to and from the dugout are physical exercises that can keep your metabolism revved up and burning calories. An average person will burn between 355 – 600 calories per hour.
Eye-Hand Coordination. Throwing and fielding the ball and especially batting require good eye-hand coordination.
Other Benefits of Baseball
One of the best things about baseball (and softball) is that it’s a fun game for all ages and abilities. This is an excellent opportunity to get involved in a fun, competitive sport that improves a variety of physical skills, as well as strategy, and sportsmanship, through the benefit of teamwork. Playing baseball would surely do wonders for you. The health benefits you receive are surely worth it.
How to Find a Team
For kids schools often have teams but there are also plenty of opportunities to play Little League. Find a Little League team in your area.
For adults, whether you’re a hardcore hitter or just like the social aspect of a beer league, there’s something out there for you, too. Step up to the plate! or check with your local Parks and Recreation Department
Not interested in joining a league? No problem. Just grab a glove, a bat, a ball and a friend, or 12, and get out there. Many local parks have baseball diamonds, or just do it old school, “sand lot” style and make your own.
Dawn Swidorski (former 3rd baseman)