In lesson four of our Sports in America free English class series, we will look at America’s national pastime: baseball!
Approximately 20 minutes
Baseball in America
Click below to listen to a recording of this passage.
Sports commentators have dubbed baseball “America’s national pastime” for good reason. Baseball is consistently one of the most-watched and played sports in the country. Whether kids are rounding the bases in Little League or professionals are hitting grand slams at the World Series, baseball is a sport for all ages. That said, it is also a very complex game with intricate rules and concepts.
Baseball consists of two teams of 9 players. Each game lasts for nine innings (with the possibility of extra innings). Unlike other field sports like football and soccer, baseball is played on a large, cone-shaped field. The infield consists of the home plate, 3 bases, and a pitcher’s mound. Alternatively, the outfield is a wide-open grassy area that marks the edge of the playing field.
Batters stand next to the home plate and attempt to hit the ball thrown by the pitcher. When a batter successfully hits the ball, they can begin running toward first base. If a batter can make it to all three bases and eventually back to home plate, this is known as a run. If a batter hits the ball beyond the outfield, this is known as a home run. The team that scores the most runs wins the game.
When the pitcher throws the ball toward the batter, one of five things can happen
A strike means that the pitcher threw the ball over home plate and the batter failed to hit it. If a batter gets three strikes, he is “out,” which means it’s the next batter’s turn.
Alternatively, if the pitcher throws a ball, it means that they did not throw the ball over home plate and the batter did not swing. If a pitcher throws four balls against the same batter, the batter automatically gets to move to first base. The same is true if the pitcher beans (or hits) the batter with the ball. Balls and strikes are determined by an official standing behind the batter known as the umpire.
What Happens Next
Once the ball has been hit, one of the players on the opposing team can either try to catch the ball (which is an automatic “out” for the batter) or get the batter out by throwing the ball to one of the bases before the batter can reach it. When one team gets three “outs,” the teams switch places, giving the other team a chance to score runs.
Once both teams get three “outs,” the inning is over. If the teams finish 9 innings with an equal number of runs, the game goes into extra innings until a winner can be determined.
As you can see, the game of baseball is pretty complex. The sport requires a unique vocabulary just to understand the basic concepts. Nonetheless, it remains one of the most popular sports in the United States and much of the world.
It has also produced a number of famous athletes, including Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron, Derek Jeter, and Cal Ripken Jr. With its storied history and diehard fanbase, baseball will likely remain America’s national pastime for years to come.
Check out this video clip to get a visual breakdown of the rules of baseball:
Let’s take a closer look at some of the words in bold from the passage:
Grammar Center: Semicolons
If you’ve ever had trouble figuring out when to use a semicolon, don’t worry; many native English speakers struggle to use semicolons correctly as well. However, they’re actually much easier to use than people realize.
To understand the purpose of the semi-colon a little better, let’s look at a sentence from the passage:
When the pitcher throws the ball toward the batter, one of five things can happen; the batter can hit the ball and start running toward first base, the batter can hit a foul ball (in which case the batter must try again), the pitcher can throw a strike, the pitcher can throw a ball, or the pitcher can bean the batter.
This example shows the primary purpose for a semi-colon: to connect two closely-related ideas. In order to do this, both ideas must be independent clauses that could stand on their own. Let’s look at each part of the sentence above to make sure this holds true:
When the pitcher throws the ball toward the batter, one of five things can happen...
Yes, the first clause is independent and would function as a complete sentence on its own. Now let’s look at the second part:
...the batter can hit the ball and start running toward first base, the batter can hit a foul ball (in which case the batter must try again), the pitcher can throw a strike, the pitcher can throw a ball, or the pitcher can bean the batter.
Yes, even though the second part is a list (which would usually be preceded by a colon), it is also an independent clause that is closely related to the previous clause. Thus, a semi-colon is warranted.
When deciding whether or not to use a semicolon, it’s helpful to think of semicolons as a stronger pause than a comma, but a weaker pause than a period. It’s also useful to imagine that the semicolon is a coordinating conjunction like “and” or “but.” In many cases, a semicolon can replace coordinating conjunctions to connect two independent clauses. Here’s an example:
I dropped my pencil during the test, but when I looked under my desk, I couldn’t find it!
I dropped my pencil during the test; when I looked under my desk, I couldn’t find it!
If a conjunctive adverb is used to link two ideas in a sentence, then a semicolon must be used before the adverb. Here is a list of conjunctive adverbs that can serve this function:
Finally, semicolons can also work to break up complicated lists. For example, here is a simple list using only commas:
I want a steak, mashed potatoes, green beans, and iced tea.
Now, let’s take the same list and make it more complex, while still only using commas:
I want a thick, juicy steak, soft, creamy mashed potatoes, savory, moist green beans, and a cold, refreshing iced tea.
The second one is kind of confusing, right? To fix this problem, we can replace the commas that actually separate list items with semicolons:
I want a thick, juicy steak; soft, creamy mashed potatoes; savory, moist green beans; and a cold, refreshing iced tea.
Voila! Now you can use semicolons to improve your own writing!
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