How Baseball Works

By: Kevin Bonsor & Joe Martin

Baseball Defense

Defensive positions

A baseball game is played between two teams -- the home team and visiting team. Often, the name of the visiting team's city is displayed across the front of the players' jerseys. Each team has at least nine players, and each player occupies a designated spot on the field. Most professional teams have many more than nine players, which allows for substitutions.

During an inning, teams take turns batting. While one team is batting, the other team puts its players in specific areas of the field in order to prevent the other team from getting hits and scoring runs. Each player of the batting team takes his turn going to home plate, standing in the batter's box, and trying to hit the ball that the pitcher throws toward him. He does so by swinging the bat as the ball nears home plate.


In all, there are nine positions on the defensive side:

  1. Pitcher - Stands on the pitcher's mound and throws the ball to the catcher in attempt to make the batter either swing and miss or else put the ball in play so that it can be caught by a defensive player (in which case the batter is "out")
  2. Catcher - Squats behind home plate and catches the pitcher's throws; also throws to bases to throw out player's trying to steal those bases, as well as fields the area around home plate
  3. First baseman - Fields the area near first base
  4. Second baseman - Fields the area between first and second base
  5. Third baseman - Fields the area near third base
  6. Shortstop - Fields the area between second and third base
  7. Left field - Fields the portion of the outfield that's on the left side of the batter when he faces the field
  8. Center field - Fields the middle portion of the outfield
  9. Right field - Fields the portion of the outfield that is on the right side of the batter when he faces the field
Former Atlanta Braves second baseman Marcus Giles leaps over an opposing player to complete a double play.
Photo courtesy Atlanta Braves

All of the fielders work together to prevent the batters and base runners of the other team from getting hits and scoring runs. An out is recorded when a fielder catches a ball, tags a base runner with a ball, or grabs the ball and steps on the base a runner is trying to reach before the runner reaches it. Outs are also recorded when a hitter strikes out (see the next section). Once three outs are recorded, a half-inning is finished. In the next section, we will look at the offensive side of the game.