Most Americans love baseball. From Tee Ball to Major League, millions of Americans play baseball, and those who don’t play baseball themselves, are fans. Baseball is so ingrained in the American culture that many people believe it is a cultural activity, not a sport, so some may ask whether baseball is a sport or not.
Although baseball is part of the American culture, based on the definition of sport in the Oxford Dictionary, baseball is a sport as it involves physical exertion, skill, and competition and provides the participants, and in most cases the spectators, with entertainment.
Although one could hardly argue that baseball is ingrained in the American culture and has, to a large extent, become a cultural activity, the actual activity of baseball is certainly, by definition, a sport. However, one could look at several characteristics of a sport to determine if baseball is a sport.
Is Baseball An Actual Sport?
The Oxford Dictionary defines sport as “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or a team competes against another or others for entertainment”. To see if baseball is a sport, we can compare it to the different characteristics of a sport that can be derived from this definition:
- Physical Exertion – Baseball involves several physical activities, including batting, pitching, throwing, catching, and running. It is clear that baseball involves physical exertion and therefore qualifies as a sport based on this characteristic.
- Skill – Hitting a ball with a bat is a skill not everyone has, and some struggle to master this skill even after years of practice. Hitting the ball is not the only skill required in baseball, as catching, throwing, and pitching are all essential skills for a baseball player. It is thus clear that baseball requires skills.
- Individual or team – Although some sports, like athletics, boxing, and gymnastics, are primarily individuals who compete against others, this definition also includes team sports. A baseball match is between two teams, each consisting of 9 players. Baseball could therefore be qualified as a team sport.
- Competes against others – Competition is a significant characteristic of a sport. In baseball, two teams compete against each other. The batting team tries to get as many runs as possible, while the fielding team tries to prevent the batting team from scoring runs.
- Entertainment – One could hardly argue that baseball is entertaining for spectators. If baseball weren’t entertaining, thousands of fans would not be paying for tickets to go and watch their favorite teams compete. But baseball is also entertaining to the players. Children want to start playing baseball from a young age and keep playing because they enjoy it.
As baseball meets all the criteria for a sport according to the definition in the Oxford dictionary, it would be safe to say that baseball is, in fact, a sport. There are, however, some other criteria that one might use to argue whether baseball is a sport or not.
Does Baseball Have All Characteristics Of A Sport?
In a study by Kazuo Uchiumi, five characteristics of modern sports were highlighted that are not included in the definition of sport in the Oxford dictionary. These characteristics of sport are physical training, victory or defeat, mental training, sports rules, and organization. The question is further whether baseball meets all these characteristics or not.
- Physical training – Baseball involves physical activity, including hitting, throwing, and running. A person must train to develop physical skills in any of these areas. Most professional baseball players will testify that it took them years of training and practice to hone their skills and develop into the players they are today.
- Victory or Defeat – The aim of a baseball match is for one of the teams to win. The teams play nine innings in Major League Baseball to determine the victor. If the teams are tied after nine innings, extra innings are played until a victor emerges. It is, therefore, clear that baseball is played for victory.
- Mental training – One aspect of baseball that is often not considered by the public is mental training. Baseball players need to train mentally to be focused and remain calm during potentially stressful crucial moments in a match. Self-confidence is another vital mental skill that baseball players should have.
- Sport rules – Rules form an essential part of any sport, and baseball is no exception. The rules of baseball determine the parameters within which the game is played and allow or prohibit certain types of behavior.
- Organization – Baseball is well organized in the United States, with various baseball governing bodies regulating the sport at different levels. These governing bodies include Little League Baseball, USA Baseball, Major League Baseball, and the International Baseball Federation.
Not only does baseball meet all the requirements of the definition of sport in the Oxford dictionary, but it also meets all the other characteristics of a modern sport, as identified in a study by Kazuo Uchiumi. It can, therefore, unequivocally be said that baseball is, in fact, a sport. That makes one wonder why some people are adamant that baseball is not a sport.
Why Is Baseball Not A Sport?
Despite baseball meeting all the requirements of a modern sport, some people still argue that baseball is not a sport. Although, for the most part, the people who say baseball is not a sport are not fans of baseball but prefer some other sport like hockey, basketball, or football, some offer a few interesting arguments as to why baseball is not a sport.
Baseball Players Are Not Athletes
Over the years, there have been many overweight Major League players, some of which, like the legendary Babe Ruth, has made it to the Baseball Hall of Fame. One argument was that baseball players are not athletes, as they do not need to be in top physical shape to throw or catch a ball. Overweight players cannot possibly be called athletes, can they?
According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, an athlete is “a person who is very good at sports or physical exercise, especially one who competes in organized events”. An athlete is also defined as ” a person who is trained or skilled in exercises, sports, or games requiring physical strength, agility, or stamina” by the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
Neither of the two definitions for an athlete mentions weight or physical conditioning of the person but requires the person to participate in and be good at a sport and possess the skills, strength, agility, and stamina to do so. As it has already been confirmed that baseball meets every requirement for a sport, it is safe to say that baseball players are, in fact, athletes.
Baseball Players Have Ridiculous Injuries
Some critics reckon that the ridiculous injuries suffered by baseball players indicate that it is not an actual sport. Such critics are comparing baseball, which is not, by definition, a contact sport, to more physical sports like hockey and football. Contact sports would have many more injuries like fractures and concussions, but baseball’s muscle injuries are not uncommon.
Those who believe that baseball is not a sport do not talk about muscle injuries when they talk about ridiculous injuries. They instead focus on strange injuries, like Jesus Luzardo who fractured his pinkie while playing video games, Aroldis Chapman whose new tattoo got infected, and Max Scherzer whose dog bit his throwing hand.
Ridiculous injuries are not limited to baseball players. One must remember that these injuries can happen to anyone at any time and could happen to participants in any other sport. An NFL player had burst an eardrum cleaning his ear with a Q-Tip when a reporter accidentally bumped into him, while another was shot in the groin with a paintball gun during a team building exercise.
Baseball Is Called America’s Pastime
Baseball is often called “America’s Pastime”. Some use this to show that baseball is not a sport but a pastime. These people forget that any sport, including football, basketball, and hockey, is nothing but a pastime for the spectators, as they are not participating in the sport. Many sports are also played socially, which makes it a pastime for those participating.
A game being a pastime does not mean it is not a sport. Any sport starts with people passing the time by playing something, which later develops into an organized sport. The fact that “America’s pastime” is used to describe baseball complements baseball as a sport and shows how popular it is and how ingrained it is into the American culture.
Children do not start playing Little League Baseball to earn money from it. They do it to pass the time, enjoy it, have a good time, and learn and develop skills. If they persist and get very good at it, these skills might see them becoming professional baseball players in the future. But the original purpose of participating is to pass the time playing a fun sport.
Baseball is thoroughly ingrained into the American culture and is so popular that it is referred to as “America’s Pastime”. Although some baseball players might be overweight and not look like their physically toned counterparts playing football or basketball, baseball still meets all the characteristics of a modern sport and is, without a doubt, one of America’s most popular sports.