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Typically, a game of baseball lasts for nine innings. Each inning is split into two halves: the top half and the bottom half. In the top half of the inning, one team bats while the other team fields. Then, in the bottom half, they switch; the team that was batting in the top half of the inning takes the field, and the team that was fielding comes up to bat.
You might be wondering which team bats in the top half of the inning and which team bats in the bottom half. It is a simple question with a very clear and very important answer.
In baseball, the away team always bats first and the home team bats second. The home team is the team in whose stadium or ballpark the game is being played. The away team is the team that is visiting this ballpark. As such, the away team can also be called the visiting team.
At all competitive levels of baseball, the visiting team bats first. If the game is being played at a neutral location, one team will still be designated the home team and the other as the away team. Usually, the higher-ranked team gets to be the home team, and that team is said to have “home-field advantage.”
Has The Visiting Team Always Batted First?
These days, one of the strictest rules of baseball is that the visiting team always bats in the top half of the inning. However, this was not always the case.
It was not until 1950 that the official rulebook mandated visiting teams must bat first. Prior to the 1950 season, the home team was given the choice each game between batting in the top half of the inning or the bottom.
In the 1800s, home teams often preferred to bat first, but by the turn of the century it was much more common for home teams to choose to bat second.
The Official Rules of Baseball now state that a game does not officially start until the players on the home team take the field and the first batter from the visiting team steps into the batter’s box.
When Are Games Played At A Neutral Location?
Usually, baseball games are played at the home ballpark of one of the two competing teams. Sometimes, however, games are played at a neutral site instead. This is most often the case in tournaments that are hosted in a select location.
The World Baseball Classic, the College World Series, the Little League World Series, and the 2020 MLB playoffs are four such examples.
When games are played in a neutral location, one team is still said to be the home team while the other is said to be the away team. Typically, the team with the higher ranking gets to be the home team, but in some cases, the order in which the teams bat is decided by another method, such as a coin toss.
Does The Home Team Ever Bat First?
Ever since it became an official rule in 1950, the team that is designated the home team always bats in the bottom half of the inning. However, in some rare instances, a team can be designated the visiting team even though the game is being played in their own stadium. This happens when the stadium that is chosen to be the neutral site of a tournament happens to be the home stadium of one of the teams competing in said tournament.
For example, in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, the Canadian national baseball team and the United States national baseball team faced off in the Rogers Centre (located in Toronto, Canada). Although the game was played in Canada, the United States was deemed the home team for that game because they were the higher ranked team in the tournament.
Is It Better To Bat Second?
The order in which the teams bat does not make a big difference in most baseball games. Ultimately, each team is given an equal opportunity to try and outscore their opponents.
However, some people think that batting last gives the home team a slight advantage. One reason for this is that the home team’s starting pitcher knows exactly when the game will start. That pitcher can begin warming up to start the game at an exact scheduled time.
The starting pitcher for the away team, on the other hand, has to be ready to start pitching whenever the bottom half of the first inning starts. Thus, the away team’s pitcher has slightly less certainty about when to be ready.
The home team is also thought to have a slight edge in the final inning of the game because they know exactly how many runs they need to score in order to win. However, preliminary research on the subject suggests this may not be much of an advantage at all.
Batting Second Is Just One Part Of Home-Field Advantage
It is difficult to say for sure whether or not batting second is advantageous, because it is so hard to separate the advantages of batting second from the other advantages of being the home team.
In nearly all professional sports, the team that is playing in their own stadium is proven to have an advantage, and Major League Baseball is no exception. It is hard to say how much – if any – of this advantage comes from batting second.
Are There Any Advantages To Batting First?
In the early days of baseball, it was considered advantageous to bat first. As such, the home team usually elected to bat in the top half of the inning, and some baseball historians even believe the home team always batted first in the very early days of organized baseball.
In those days, games were often played using a single ball (these days it’s common to go through more than 100 balls in a one game). The team that got to bat first was always hitting a less damaged baseball, and this was thought to be an advantage.
In more recent years, there has been new evidence to suggest the team that bats first sometimes has a slight advantage. Since 2020, when Major League Baseball implemented the rule that places a runner on second base in extra innings, home teams have performed significantly worse than away teams in extra-inning games.
Does The Home Team Always Have The Last At-Bat?
The away team always has the first at-bats of the game. Therefore, it would stand to reason that the home team would always have the final at-bats. That is a logical assumption, but it is not always the case.
If the home team is already leading the game heading into the bottom of the final inning, they do not need to score any more runs in order to win. In such an instance, there is no point for the home team to take their final at-bats.
In a casual baseball league, the home team might choose to take their final at-bats just for fun, but that will not happen in a more competitive league. Therefore, it is possible for the same team to have both the first and the last at-bats of a ballgame.
Only The Home Team Can Walk-Off
A walk-off win is considered one of the most exciting victories in baseball. A walk-off occurs when a team scores the winning run of the game in their very final at-bat. This can only happen if the team is batting second – otherwise, the other team would still have a chance to score in the bottom half of the inning.
Walk-off wins are very exciting for the victorious team and their fans and highly demoralizing for the losing team and their fans. Thus, it is a very good thing that teams can only walk-off at home. That way, their fans in the stadium get to celebrate the exciting victory along with them.
This is one reason why batting second is beneficial for the home team, even though it is not necessarily a competitive advantage.
See Also: What is a Walk Off Home Run?
Which Player Bats First In A Baseball Game?
The player who bats first is called the leadoff hitter. There is no rule about who the leadoff hitter must be – any one of the nine players in a team’s lineup can bat first.
Traditionally, teams would bat their fastest runner in the leadoff spot, but in recent years, it has become more common to use players with high on-base percentages in that spot instead.
Who Throws The First Pitch In A Baseball Game?
The first official pitch of a baseball game is always thrown by the starting pitcher of the home team. Sometimes, however, a different person will throw the ceremonial first pitch. This person is often a former player, a celebrity, or a local politician.
It is important to note that the ceremonial first pitch does not actually count as part of the game. It is merely a fun celebration that takes place before the game begins.