‘Let’s try and give popular baseball phrases a ballpark figure.’

Major League Baseball
Major League Baseball

In this week’s instalment of Curveballs and Sliders, Herts Baseball Club’s Joe Gray helps you to get to grips with the lingo of the game.

Like any sport, baseball has its own set of lingo, and a variety of terms will fly around the field and among the fans in the stands that might leave a newcomer baffled.

However, the occasional expression falling on the newcomer’s ears will be one that is instantly recognisable, for it will be one that has transcended the sport and entered common parlance.

An area with intricate nomenclature is that of pitch types. The player on the mound, if suitably skilled, can throw – among other pitches – a fastball (maximum velocity and relatively little movement), a changeup (delivered like a fastball but with less velocity, for deception), a curveball (dives down as it reaches the batter), a slider (between a fastball and a curveball), or even something known as a knuckleball (has little or no spin and unpredictable jumps along its arc).

Hitting, too, has a variable lexicon at its disposal. The home run, for instance, has at least 20 different labels, including bomb, round-tripper, moon shot, four-bagger, tater, jack, big fly, and dinger.

Among the terms described above, there is at least one that has crept into common usage away from the ballpark - being “thrown a curveball” means encountering something unexpected.

If one were to effectively counter that, it might be said that he or she has “stepped up to the plate” and “hit a home run.”

Back on the field, having “all the bases covered” can be a good strategy for a fielding team, and off it it can be used to describe thorough planning. Similarly, “striking out” brings a negative end to a hitter’s turn at-bat, and it can be used, more generally, to mean failing in some quest.

It would be difficult to put an exact number on the baseball phrases that have entered common usage, but it might be possible to at least give a ballpark figure.

> Joe Gray is the founder and co-ordinator of Project COBB, the home of the chronicling of British Baseball. To visit the website click here

Next week, Curveballs and Sliders will provide a taster of ballpark cuisine.