If you are brand new and just learning how to play baseball, learning the basic baseball rules is your top priority! First of all, welcome to baseball! Baseball is the BEST! I am glad you have decided to learn more about America’s Favorite Pastime…
I will organize the baseball rules and regulations below. These basic baseball rules are used at every level of baseball. These are Little League Baseball Rules, official baseball rules for professional leagues and the same basic rules and regulations that amateur baseball leagues use.
For official baseball rules, see Major League Baseball Rules. You can also find their baseball rule book.
Please contact me if you have any questions!
INNINGS, BATTING, OUTS & STRIKES
A baseball game is broken into parts called innings. In each inning, each team will pitch and field while the other team bats. When the batting team gets 3 outs, the other team will come in to bat.
A batter is called “out” if any of the following occur:
- Batter gets three strikes
- Batter hits a ball that is caught before it hits the ground
- A member of the opposing team tags the batter with the ball or the glove (which contains the ball) before they reach 1st base safely
- The batted ball is thrown to the first-baseman and the first-baseman touches the base with his foot while holding the ball
- Any member of the fielding team tags a base-runner with the ball or glove (which contains the ball) when the base-runner is on his/her way to second base, third base or home-plate
- The base-runner is forced out before arriving safely to the next base (read about force vs. tag below)
Basic Baseball Rules – Strikes and Fouls
A batter can earn a strike by doing the following:
- A swing and miss at a pitch
- A pitch is thrown into the strike zone that is not swung at but called a strike by the umpire
- A ball hit foul (see below)
Basic Baseball Rules – Foul Ball
A “foul” ball is one that is hit so it rolls to the outside of the foul line from home plate to 1st base or from home plate to 3rd base. A foul ball can also travel in the air but lands outside of the foul line from home plate to the foul pole in right and left field. A ball that is hit within the two lines previously described is a fair ball. A batter never receives a 3rd and final strike for hitting a foul ball. If foul balls are hit after 2 strikes are obtained, the batter keeps batting. The exception is that if a foul hit ball (or fair ball) is caught before it strikes the ground, the batter is out.
Basic Baseball Rules – The Strike Zone
The strike zone is the width of home plate (or a little wider) and has height from the knees to the shoulder pits of the batter. The strike zone will vary somewhat depending on your umpires.
Basic Baseball Rules – Balls and Walks
If the pitcher pitches to an area outside the strike zone, it is called a ball. If the batter is awarded 4 balls before striking out or getting out another way, they will be awarded first base with a walk.
Basic Baseball Rules – Running the Bases
After the batter hits a fair ball, he/she will attempt to do one of the following:
- Run to first base only
- Run to first base and then continue to second base, which is called a double
- Run to first base and then continue to second base and then continue to third base, which is called a triple
- Run to first base and then continue to second base and then continue to third base and then continue to home plate, which is called a home run
Any previous batters that reached a base safely may advance to the subsequent bases and finally to home plate. A run is awarded for each batter that reaches home plate safely. The team with the most runs at the end of the game is declared the winner of the baseball game.
Basic Baseball Rules – Over-Running the Bases
After a fair ball is hit, the batter runs to first base. If the batter is only going to run to first base, they are allowed to over-run first base and are safe if they touch base before the first-baseman catches the ball while standing on base. The batter is still considered safe even if they are off base, provided that they ran straight past the first base and not make any movement that would be considered a move toward second base. If the batter, instead, tags first base and rounds the corner toward second base, he/she may be tagged out if they are unsuccessful! Lastly, players running from 1st to 2nd or 2nd to 3rd base may always be tagged out if they overrun the base and the opposing team tags them. To summarize, over-running a base without the chance of being tagged out is ONLY allowed for a batter running straight past first base.
Basic Baseball Rules – Force-Out vs. Tag-Out
Two runners of the batting team can not occupy a base at the same time. This means that if there is a runner on 1st base and the current batter hits a fair ball, the runner on first must advance to at least second base. This is known as a force out at 2nd situation. If this is the case, the second baseman only has to tag the base before the runner arrives, rather than tag the runner. If the second baseman has enough time, they may even throw to first base to get the hitter out as well which is called a double play. In a bases loaded situation (runners occupy each base), a force out is possible at first base, second base, third base, or home since all of the runners and batters are forced to advance to the next base. On the other hand, if a runner is already at 2nd base with 1st base empty and the ball is hit, the 2nd base runner trying to reach 3rd may only be tagged out by actually tagging with the ball (as opposed to simply tagging base). This last case is a tag out situation. To summarize, if a runner is forced to advance, a force out is possible. If a runner is not forced to advance, they must be tagged out.
Basic Baseball Rules – Runs Scored When Third Out Is Made
All runs scored before the 3rd actually happens will count if the third out occurs in a tag-out situation. For example, if there are two outs and runners at second and third and the batter hits a ball that results in the second base runner being tagged out at third for the third out yet the third base runner made it home before the actual out was made, the run would count. On the other hand, if the runner made it home after the third out was actually made, the run would not count. If the third out occurred on a force-out situation, the run would not count, even if it happened before the third out was made.
Basic Baseball Rules – Pop-Fly Rules
A pop fly is a ball hit into the air so a fielder can catch it before it hits the ground. If a pop fly is caught before it hits the ground, the batter is automatically out. When a pop fly is hit, any runners that begin advancing to another base before the ball is caught are out if the ball is thrown back to the baseman and the baseman tags the base with his/her foot before the runner makes it back to the base. For example, assume a pop fly is hit. While the ball is in the air, a runner on 2nd base advances to 3rd. When the ball is caught and thrown back to the 2nd baseman and he/she tags base before the runner can get back on base, the runner would be out. A runner may tag up however, and then safely run to the next base. Tagging up means the runner waits on the current base until after the pop-fly ball is caught and then runs to the next base. So, if our 2nd base runner waits until the ball is caught before proceeding to 3rd base, the runner would be safe as long he/she did not get tagged out at 3rd base.
Basic Baseball Rules – Stealing Bases
An existing base-runner may advance to the next base after the pitch is thrown even if the ball is not hit. This is known as a steal. The pitching team may try to tag this runner out. This is a tag-out situation. Note that a base-runner may not steal on a foul ball – in this case the stealing runner is allowed to safely return to the original base. Also note that some youth baseball leagues may have different rules when dealing with stolen bases. Be sure to update yourself with the basic baseball rules for your league!