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15 Baseball Idioms and Metaphors

What has the game of Baseball contributed to the English Language?

4:33 min read
  Teri Lapping  —  Grammar Tips
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It is interesting to contemplate how a language grows. For example, let’s look at what the game of baseball contributed to the English language. 

As baseball consolidated its identity, it developed a vocabulary of its own, creating specific words and phrases to describe the particulars of the game. 

Gradually, many of these phrases slid into common usage and were graphic enough to become metaphors, slowly losing their connection to their origin. 

Let’s explore 15 common expressions that have their basis in the game of baseball.

In baseball terminology, the plate refers to home plate, which is the place where the batter stands when hitting the ball. 

To Step Up to the Plate
To step up to the plate is to be responsible, to rise to the occasion, to take on a challenge.
For example: “The CEO stepped up to the plate and gave all her workers a raise.”

In baseball terminology, a hit occurs when a batter hits the ball and successfully reaches first base.

A Hit or Miss
A hit or miss occurrence can either be a success or a failure
For example: “The patient was told that the treatment was a hit or miss situation.”

In baseball terminology, a base refers to a square marker, made of canvas, that is placed at each of the four corners of the diamond-shaped baseball infield.

To Touch Base 
To touch base is to check in briefly with someone.
For example: “Let’s touch base tomorrow before you drive all the way to my house.”

15 Baseball Idioms and Metaphors

Off Base
When something is off base, it means that it is slightly off center, possibly a bit incorrect or unrefined. 
For example: “That man’s sense of humor is a little off base.”

To Cover Your Bases
To cover your bases means to prepare for all possibilities, to be ready for all occasions.
For example: “I covered my bases by preparing vegetarian as well as meat dishes.”

To Get to First Base
Getting to first base means achieving that first milestone, or successfully beginning a relationship with someone.
For example: “The young man was excited to get to first base with his date.”

In baseball terminology, the word ball can have two separate meanings: the hard physical baseball, and a type of pitch which is thrown by a pitcher.

To Throw a Curve Ball
To throw a curve ball is to have something uncomfortable or unexpected suddenly happen.
For example: “My employer really threw me a curve ball when she asked me to share my office with a coworker.”

To Give a Ballpark Figure 
When you give a ballpark figure, you are making a guess or giving an estimate. 
For example: “Give me a ballpark figure of the price of electricity per month.” 

To Be on The Ball 
To be on the ball is to be alert, to pay attention, to have knowledge.
For example: “You have to be on the ball if you want to participate in their discussion.” 

To Play Hardball 
To play hardball is to be tough, aggressive, to be competitive, to be ruthless.
For example: “The landlord was playing hardball with her tenants, charging them for every hole in the wall and chip in the paint.”

In baseball terminology, the word bat describes a metal or wooden club that is used to hit the ball after a pitcher has thrown it.

Right Off the Bat
Right off the bat means immediately, from the very start, from the first, instantly.
For example: “I knew that we would get along right off the bat.”

To Bat a Thousand
To bat a thousand means to have a perfect record, to be successful.
For example: “We were batting a thousand when we went out for dinner and also arrived at the movie in time to see the previews.”

In baseball terminology, a home run occurs when the batter hits the ball in such a way that he can run around all four bases (first base, second base, third base, and home base), scoring a point for the team.

To Hit a Home Run
To hit a home run is to achieve something positive, to be completely successful. 
For example: “I hit a home run on my algebra exam; I don’t think I missed any questions.”

In baseball terminology, the word strike refers to a ball that the pitcher has pitched but that the batter has failed to hit. To strike out means that the batter has received three strikes, and now loses his turn.

To Strike Out 
To strike out means to fail or to be unsuccessful in your effort. 
For example: “He struck out in his interview for the job. He will have to continue searching. “

In baseball terminology, if a ball is thrown from out of left field, it arrives from an area that is unexpected to the runner.

Out of Left Field: 
When something appears from out of left field, it is surprising; it has arrived from an unexpected direction or at an unplanned time.  
For example: “The hurricane descended on the town from out of left field.

You might not be a baseball fan: maybe you are not a sports fan at all. Never-the-less, you can appreciate the surprising impact that baseball has had, both on the playing field, and on the metaphors of our culture as well. 

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