Baseball developed in the United States before the turn of the century, loosely based on cricket. It began as a leisurely white man's game, though the Negro Leagues introduced quality players to the professional leagues. The game itself hasn't changed much since the days of Jackie Robinson, Ty Cobb and Mickey Mantle. The recent home run derby between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sossa added a lot to fan interest.
The sport is played on a large field with four bases in a diamond shape in one corner. Two teams of nine players play, one covering the field and the bases, the other at bat. The field-team positions are: 1st, 2nd and 3rd base, shortstop, left field, right field, centre field, pitcher and catcher (at home plate).
Players at bat try to hit the ball, thrown by a pitcher. After hitting the ball a player runs around the bases before the ball is caught and thrown to another player who must "tag" them with it (he is then called "out"). They can also move runners around the bases by "stealing" bases, running to the next base after the pitcher "pitches" the ball. When a player reaches home plate again without being tagged, that counts as a scoring "run". After three players are tagged "out", teams switch positions, and continue to play for 9 "innings".
A pitcher can also get a player "out" if they miss hitting the ball in three good pitches. A "strike" is a pitch, good enough to be hit, but missed by the batter. If the ball was ruled by the umpire as not good enough to be hit, it is called a "ball". With four balls, a player is allowed to walk to the first base.
Baseball is a popular professional sport, with 28 major league teams in North America, including Toronto and Montreal. Minor league baseball is also played across North America, including the Calgary Cannons. But baseball has grassroots appeal as it can be played by average people who are out for some fun in the summer.
Variations of the sport:
Game played for 7 innings, around a diamond with 90 foot baselines, with a 9 inch circumference ball pitched (usually overhand) from a raised mound 60 feet from home palte
Game played for 7 innings, around a diamond with 60 foot baselines, with a 12 inch circumference ball pitched underhand from a marked circle 40-43 feet from home plate
Game played for 9 innings, around a diamond with 60 foot baselines, with a 12 inch circumference ball pitched underhand from a pitcher's mark 36 feet from home plate.
The game of baseball has two main variations: softball, and baseball. In softball, the pitcher throws the ball (a bit larger than a baseball) underhand with a slow arc so the batter has a good chance to hit the ball. In baseball, the ball is thrown quickly over the shoulder, requiring quick reflexes on the part of the batter. Softball is often played co-ed, with men and women playing on the same teams.
Some equipment is needed for both variations. To play baseball, you need a baseball glove, which has very large leather fingers to help catch the flying ball, and is padded protect your own hand. The catcher's mitt is probably the most expensive glove, but most gloves will cost between $40 and $130. You may also want a baseball cap to shield your eyes from the glare of the low sun during afternoon and evening games. A baseball bat, whether in the traditional wood or modern day aluminum, will run between $35-$75, but is often supplied by the league. Other equipment, like cleatted shoes, a batting helmet and knee pads, is optional.