The Beginners Guide to #MLB: Become a Fanatic Overnight: Major League Baseball

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Guide to Becoming an MLB Fanatic

Home run! Strike out! Have you heard these phrases screamed in celebratory fashion, but don’t actually know what they mean? You’ve seen baseball games on TV and heard friends and family talk about “RBIs,” but the idea of learning about the sport seems a little daunting. Fear not, we’re here to help you make sense of the differences between “foul” and “fair” – and everything else baseball related – with our Guide to Becoming an MLB Fanatic.

Top of the Order

Older than the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, or the National Hockey League, the MLB reigns as the oldest professional team sport in America. Each year, 30 Major League Baseball (MLB) teams compete in a 162-game season for the chance to go to the playoffs, and hopefully, win the World Series. These 30 teams are broken evenly into two leagues – American and National – and each league has three divisions.

In both the American and National leagues, the division winners (the teams with the most wins at the end of the season) and one wild card team (determined by a single-elimination playoff game between the two teams with the best records who are not division winners) start the post-season in a best-of-five game series. The winners then progress to a best-of-seven League Championship Series. This all leads up to the World Series, where the winning team gets bragging rights and immortality if they emerge victorious!

At the Plate

Baseball games are broken up into nine innings. There’s a top of the inning, where the visiting team has the opportunity to try and score runs (at-bat), and a bottom of the inning, where the home team gets their turn. Each half-inning concludes when the team on the field (not at-bat) records three outs. Outs can be recorded in several ways, but the most common are when a hitter either strikes out or hits the ball directly to a player in the field and they catch it.

Sometimes, if the game is tied at the end of nine innings, extra innings are required. If that happens, the game will continue until a winner is determined. The winner, either in nine innings or extra innings, is the team with the most runs. Runs are earned when a player progresses to the first, second, and third base before returning to home plate.

It’s the job of the team on the field to help make sure this doesn’t happen. They do this by either striking out the batter, or by tagging him out. Tagging a player out occurs when a runner is touched by a player’s glove that contains the ball before they’ve reached the next base or home plate. Baserunners can also get an out if a fielding player, with the ball, beats them to a plate that they are forced to run toward.

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On Deck

There are nine positions on the baseball field, and each position is associated with a number (for scoring purposes). Here are the positions, and some examples of key players in each role (these are the guys whose jerseys you’ll want to pick up from Fanatics.com!).

  • Pitchers (1): Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers; David Price, Boston Red Sox
  • Catchers (2): Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants; Brian McCann, New York Yankees
  • First Base (3): Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers; Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks
  • Second Base (4): Robinson Canó, Seattle Mariners; Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox
  • Third Base (5): Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles; Adrián Beltré, Texas Rangers
  • Short Stop (6): Carlos Correa, Houston Astros; Troy Tulowitzki, Toronto Blue Jays
  • Left Field (7): Matt Holliday, St. Louis Cardinals; Justin Upton, Detroit Tigers
  • Center Field (8): Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim; Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates
  • Right Field (9): Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins; Jason Heyward, Chicago Cubs

In the American League, there’s also a position called the DH – Designated Hitter. This person bats in place of the pitcher throughout the rotation. The most well-known DH today would be David Ortiz, who plays for the Boston Red Sox (make sure to see him play soon, though, as he’s retiring at the end of the 2016 season).

Chasing the Pennant

Below, our recommendation for a few teams you should be watching:

  • Chicago Cubs: Owning the mantle for most tortured franchise, the Cubs haven’t won a World Series since 1908. However, with great pitching, hitting, and coaching, the Cubs have the city of Chicago believing that this will be the year they break the curse.
  • San Francisco Giants: Having won the World Series in 2010, 2012, and 2014, the Giants are on a roll. If they can stay healthy (which hasn’t always been their strong suit), perhaps they can add another World Series win in 2016.
  • Baltimore Orioles: With possibly the best young player on any current baseball roster, (Manny Machado, age 24), the “Birds” are currently flying high. There is a lot for fans to be excited about, and the Orioles are hoping their team makes it to the World Series this year.

Walk-Off Winner

Now that you know about innings, the types of players on the field, the star athletes in every position, and even some teams worth checking out, you are ready to emerge as a baseball fan. So grab that foam finger, get ready for peanuts and Cracker Jack, and get yourself out to the ball game. But before you do, get the best official MLB merchandise and apparel from Fanatics.com; it’s a home run!                                                      

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Charitable MLB Players

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Making big bucks as a professional athlete often means that financial decisions need to be made. It’s not all calculators and accountants, though. One way MLB superstars make use of their money is by donating to charitable causes they believe in, and it helps connect them with their fans and their local communities in a big way. While MLB has officially partnered with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, this is just a part of the giving spirit of some of the nation’s favorite baseball players.

Not only does the direct interaction with these charitable organizations benefit the people they serve directly, but it helps bring more exposure to the orgs. Also, baseball players are looked up to by many, and seeing how they reach out and help people (and places) in need can bring recognition to those causes. It can also inspire us to want to give back to our own communities and can raise awareness of issues we may not be enlightened to.

Here are some of the most generous players in the Majors and how they help raise awareness and help out those who need it most.

MLB Players Who Give Back the Most

Players Associated With the Most Charites

Many MLB players get involved with a charity and some start their own foundations, but some MLB players choose to become involved with many charities. David Ortiz, who is currently playing in his last MLB season, tops out at six. Cal Ripken Jr. comes in just behind him at five, and famous Yankees players Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter (retired) both participate in four charity organizations each.

Ortiz, like many professional players, started his own foundation, the David Ortiz Children’s Fund. This charity helps children in both New England as well as in his home country of the Dominican Republic receive the critical health care they need but may not have access to. Big Papi also supports the Josh Beckett Foundation (Beckett himself helps support two charities) and the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, among others.

Ripken and his brother joined forces to found the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, which works with at-risk youth in underserved areas and helps establish baseball and softball programs. The foundation also works to build youth development parks and playing fields. Baseball’s Iron Man also helps back the Living Classrooms Foundation and Bicycle for a Day, as well as a few others.

MLB and the Charities They Love

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According to LookToTheStars.org, some charities get more MLB athlete support than others. The Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles claims three MLB superstars, making it one of the most supported MLB-wise.

Another top target for baseball’s best is Soles4Souls, which has distributed 26 million pairs of shoes to kids and adults in need around the globe. While many take having a pair of shoes for granted, it can be the difference between being able to attend school and go to work or not. This organization has garnered the help of three of baseball’s greats.  

The Jason Taylor Foundation, which helps promote literacy and education among school kids, is another top org that also has gets support from a couple MLB players. The Jimmy Fund and the Josh Beckett Foundation also get support from two baseball guys each.

Top MLB Athletes for Charities

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The Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles can count on three MLB stars for support, including David Ortiz, Josh Beckett, and retired player Nomar Garciaparra (who played a large chunk of his career with the Red Sox). It’s unsurprising that Ortiz chose this children’s hospital to support, as he has a special place in his heart for kids who are struggling with an illness.

MLB backers for Soles4Souls include Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, and Seattle’s Robinson Cano. These players are among several pro athletes who have donated game-worn cleats for fundraising auctions put on by the charity.

The Jason Taylor Foundation has a couple retired MLB benefactors, including former southpaw pitcher Al Leiter and 12-time All-Star Mike Piazza. And a couple of other charities get support from more than one MLB personality, including the Jimmy Fund (Brock Holt and Pablo Sandoval) and the Josh Beckett Foundation (David Ortiz and Josh Beckett).

These baseball benefactors are certainly worth looking up to. Fortunately, Fanatics.com has all your favorite MLB gear on hand, from caps to jerseys to T-shirts, so you can suit up and make a difference yourself.

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David Ortiz Surprised, Jumps Up and Gets Goosebumps

Not even David Ortiz is immune to getting a case of the goosebumps that we’ve all felt as sports fans.

Big Papi joined Boston Red Sox fans for a special live Fanatics hangout on Facebook Tuesday afternoon, signing baseballs during an entertaining Q and A session. When Ortiz was asked what jersey the Red Sox legend would want if he could only own one, however, Fanatics had a surprise in store.

Ortiz chose the one and only Michael Jordan as his pick, and he didn’t have to wait long for his dream to turn into reality.

The reaction from Big Papi says it all, jumping out of his chair in disbelief and holding up his new prized possession. Just like the thousands of fans who have been gifted a David Ortiz jersey, the Red Sox slugger gets goosebumps on his arms once it really kicks in.

“This is a dream come true right here,” Ortiz said while holding up his new jersey. “Oh my goodness, this might go under my pillow!”

Whether Ortiz actually sleeps with it under his pillow or he simply decides to hang it up on his wall, you can bet he will remember this moment for a long time.

A winner of three World Series championships and six Silver Slugger awards, Ortiz is as accomplished as any player in recent history. That doesn’t mean he’s immune to feeling like a kid on Christmas morning when being gifted a special sports item that he’s always wanted.

Moments like the one on Tuesday remind us that there’s a wide-eyed sports fanatic inside our biggest sports idols and star athletes – even ones with more than 500 career home runs.

 

See the full video on the Fanatic Facebook page