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Guide to Baseball

March 22, 2021
Guide to Baseball

The GIST

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 defense. Then the teams switch to play the bottom of that 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 (e.g., when a player strikes out on pitches, is thrown out at a base 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 of baseball? It’s got to be the seventh 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 and 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 follow a slightly different set of rules. 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 in that place.

There are 162 regular season games (that’s not a typo… the MLB by far has 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 LA Dodgers won the 2020 World Series, defeating the Tampa Bay Rays in six thrilling games. With the win, the Dodgers earned their seventh franchise championship, ending a 32-year (!!!) World Series drought.

The Dodgers, led by outfielder Mookie Betts and starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw, fulfilled their preseason favorite status to win the championship in a pandemic-shortened season that almost never happened. LA, baby

Names to know 

We already mentioned LA Dodger Betts, who will surely continue doing Mookie things next season. There must be something in the water in LA, because the other top player to watch is Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout, who's won three AL MVP awards but has never won a playoff game. Maybe this year?

There's some young star power making noise this year, including bat flipping machine San Diego Padre Fernando Tatís Jr. and Washington National Juan Soto, who is already drawing comparisons to Ted Williams (aka "The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived"). Decent company.

As for pitchers, two of the top arms in the majors just so happen to be in New York. In the AL, it's NY Yankee Gerrit Cole, who signed a record-breaking contract when he joined the pin stripes in 2019. And over in the NL, NY Met Jacob deGrom used to be known for his signature flow, but now he's better known for leading the NL in strikeouts last year. 

And if you're looking for a team to watch, we recommend the Miami Marlins. Not only did the Marlins impress with their Cinderella story run in the 2020 playoffs, they also made a herstoric offseason announcement, naming Kim Ng as their General Manger (GM). Ng is the first-ever female GM (!!!) in any North American major sports league. Suddenly we're all Marlins fans!

Women who bat

For whatever reason, women do not have a pro league for “hardball” (another name for baseball). Instead, women play softball professionally — a similar game but with a bigger ball where pitchers throw underhand.

Women DO play baseball at the amateur level. It’s an Olympic sport (including at Tokyo 2020!) and is played at the Pan Am Games (for North, South and Central America).

Channel your inner fan!

Here’s some fun stats to break out at your next office ball game outing:

  • The lifespan of a MLB baseball is only five-to-seven 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. And they’re not even the oldest MLB team.
  • Unfortunately, no woman has ever played in an MLB game. BUT sports executive Effa Louise Manley (1897–1981) is the first and only woman inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. 'Atta be, Effa!

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🏀Women's March Madness: Let me take you dancing

March 22, 2021
Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

The great divide: The sports world was fired up this weekend (and rightfully so!) after Oregon Duck Sedona Prince called out the very obvious behind-the-scenes differences between the men’s and women’s tournaments. 

  • After pro athletes and the media joined Prince’s call for action, the NCAA finally took full responsibility for the unequal treatment and “fixed” some of their mistakes.
  • The NCAA also vowed to do better moving forward. Thanks for doing the bare minimum!

Moving along: The women’s tournament began yesterday and so far, no major upsets. No. 1 Stanford, the top team in the Alamo region and the entire tournament, started their run to the championship with a score win over Utah Valley last night, and the top seeds in all three other regions — UConn, South Carolina and NC State — won as well.

  • Fun fact: the higher seed won every matchup in all 16 games played yesterday, including all eight first round games in the River Walk region

Still to come: Another 16 games are set for today, including the No. 2 seeds in the Alamo, Hemisfair and Mercado regions: Louisville, Maryland and Texas A&M. And the round of 32 begins tomorrow. Check out the full schedule here. Let’s focus on the court now, shall we?

🏀Men's March Madness: Livin’ on a prayer

March 22, 2021
Source: Jack Dempsey/NCAA Photos via Getty Images
Source: Jack Dempsey/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

The upsets: Indianapolis? More like upset-tropolis. After five (!!!) top-five seeds lost in the opening round, the hits kept coming in the second round with No. 1 Illinois — a favorite to win the entire tourney — losing 71–58 in yesterday’s intrastate battle to No. 8 Loyola-Chicago. Sister Jean for MVP.

  • No. 11 Syracuse joined the party, toppling No. 3 West Virginia 75–72 yesterday, clinching their 24th Sweet Sixteen appearance, and their 20th under head coach Jim Boeheim in the process. Who knew March was prime Orange season? 
  • And No. 15 Oral Roberts followed up their huge first round upset over No. 2 Ohio State with another, defeating No. 7 Florida 81–78 yesterday to become only the second 15-seed to make the Sweet Sixteen. We love a Cinderella story.

COVID-19: ICYMI, on Saturday, the first round matchup between No. 7 Oregon and No. 10 VCU was declared a no-contest due to COVID-19 protocols for VCU. Under the NCAA’s pre-determined COVID-19 plan, Oregon automatically advanced to the next round.

  • The NCAA couldn’t comment further on the situation due to privacy reasons, but VCU reportedly returned multiple positive tests leading up to their first round matchup. Yup, COVID-19 has burst the Indy bubble. Yikes…

What to watch: Second round action continues later today. We’ll have our split screens on all day, TBH, but the game we’re most excited for is the 6:10 p.m. ET matchup between No. 5 Creighton and No. 13 Ohio. 

  • No. 12 UCSB took Creighton down to the wire in the first round, with the Bluejays pulling out a 63–62 nailbiter. Meanwhile, Ohio pulled off a huge win, defeating defending champion, and No. 4, Virginia 62–58. Upset alert, round two, baby.
🏀🎾🏂🏒

The GIST's Quick Hits - US (March 22, 2021)

March 22, 2021
Source: Greg Wohlford/Erie Times-News
Source: Greg Wohlford/Erie Times-News

🏀NBA: The injury bug is out for blood. LA Laker LeBron James is out indefinitely with an ankle sprain he sustained in Saturday’s loss to the Atlanta Hawks, and now Charlotte Hornets rookie LaMelo Ball is out indefinitely with a fractured wrist. They say bad things come in threes, but let’s not, okay?

🎾Tennis: While spring breakers fight for their right to party (literally) in South Beach, there are a few VIPs staying away from Miami this week. Due to a dental surgery, Serena Williams joined Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in pulling out of the Miami Open, which begins today.

🏒Hockey: Everyone’s feeling the March Madness. In Friday’s NCAA’s women’s ice hockey championship, Wisconsin Badger Daryl Watts channeled her inner baller and used a defender as a backboard to score the overtime game winner, giving the reigning champ Badgers their record fifth title. 

🏂Snowboard: Reporting on Chloe Kim winning is becoming standard practice. Yesterday, the superstar snowboarder won her second World Cup halfpipe event of the season at the US Grand Prix. What else is new?

🏀Chicago: It wasn’t over…it still isn’t over

March 22, 2021
Source: CBS
Source: CBS

🎓🏀The battle of Illinois, MBB: We’re still stunned by the No. 8 Loyola Chicago Ramblers’ huge upset over the U of I Fighting Illini yesterday. Despite high hopes following a stellar regular season, the Illini became the first No. 1 seed to fall  — and it wasn’t really even close. 

  • Loyola led for over 38 minutes of the game and came away with a  71–58 win. Their tough defense stifled U of I’s starpower, limiting superhero NBA prospect Ayo Dosunmu to only nine points. 
  • On the other hand, the Illini had no answer for Cameron Krutwig, who led the Ramblers with 19 points and 12 rebounds. And he’s now a Twitter sensation…talk about versatile. 

WBB: Jumping over to the women’s tournament, the No. 7 Northwestern Wildcats are ready to kick off their own March Madness run vs. the No. 10 UCF Knights. Tip off’s tonight at 4 p.m. ET/3 p.m. CT.

🏀Sky: Hey Google, play “Homecoming” by Kanye. After one season with the Dallas Wings, Astou Ndour is headed home. The forward played what she says was “her best game” with the Sky during the 2018 and 2019 seasons, and she’s happy to be back in the Windy City where she feels “comfortable on the court and off the court.” Same, Astou, same.