The famous bat-and-ball game known as America’s pastime, baseball has its roots in England in the 1740s. A British publication from 1744 refers to baseball, and its first recorded game occurred in Surrey in 1749, featuring a well-known player: the Prince of Wales. An early version of the game seems to have been carried to Canada with immigrants from England. The game has evolved and gained tremendous popularity since those early roots.
Understanding modern baseball requires an understanding of the positions held by the players. Nine such positions occupy the field. They are governed less by rules and more by traditional practice and experience. These positions are the catcher, pitcher, shortstop, first baseman along with the second and third basemen, center fielder, left fielder, and right fielder. Other positions do exist; these include such specialized roles as the pinch-runner and pinch-hitter as well as the designated hitter.
These positions have grown to be so standardized that any changes beyond a minor one in player positioning are seen as noteworthy. The fact remains, however, that only two baseball players have firm positions defined by the rules. The pitcher is the first. This player must begin each play making contact with a pitching plate known as the pitcher’s rubber. The catcher’s position is also clearly defined. Catchers must start the play inside the catcher’s box, which lies behind the home plate.
The other seven players on the field, or fielders, may arrange themselves at any location that is in fair territory. Experience has given teams the awareness that the best approach involves positioning four infielders near the baselines and the remaining three outfielders deep out in the field. The fielders tend to spread themselves so that no large gap exists between any two of them.
Sometimes, a utility player is given a chance to shine by performing the stunt of playing each of the nine positions within a single game. In the stunt’s purest form, the player tackles a position for a full inning. Sometimes this player’s turn at pitching is limited to a single batter, depending on the player’s particular skill at this specialized position. Pitcher and catcher are the most difficult positions for these utility players to step into success.