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Baseball: America’s national language?

Baseball is one the oldest professional sports played in North America today. The first recorded baseball game took place in Hoboken, New Jersey, in 1845; the first televised game between professional teams pitted the Cincinnati Reds against the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1939; and this year marks the 107th Major League Baseball (MLB) Championship, more commonly known as the World Series. Over the years, the sport has risen in popularity as a national pastime that millions of people enjoy both watching and playing. Other pro sports associations frequently make bids for the coveted status of ‘America’s national pastime’ with arguably valid claims. Thanks to events like the Super Bowl, football boasts a much larger television audience and brings in more money to the franchise, while basketball, being a sport that requires a minimum of only two participants in non-professional games, is easier to organize and played by more people. However, as institutional staples go, baseball has rooted itself into the very makeup of culture in America in a way that no other sport is close to replicating: through language.

The baseball of business

All right. You’ve made it to the big leagues. You were once just a pinch-hitter for desperate times, but after racking up points on your scorecard by hitting more than a few home runs, you’ve bypassed all the middlemen and skyrocketed to MVP status. Don’t drop the ball!

This not-so-cheerful morale booster seems like what an excited, slightly panicked coach might say to his newly ascended all-star player. It’s also the kind of pep talk a new hot shot executive might receive from the department vice president just before a crucial meeting with his corporation’s stakeholders. Baseball terminology has infiltrated the business world so fluidly that speaking in the popular sport’s lingo is par for the course (another great idiom with roots, this time, in golf). Colleagues use email to touch base and keep each other posted on work-related projects. A pitch is the key tool salespeople use to present their products to potential customers. And playing hardball with a client or partner is sometimes the only way to come out on top in a business deal.

All life is a (ball) game

The boardroom isn’t the only place one might hear language equally suited to the ballpark. During election season, politicians field questions from various media outlets, debate moderators, and their fellow candidates, presumably after having been prepped for potential curveball questions that come out of left field. After all, the last thing a viable candidate wants to be considered is bush league. It also wouldn’t be totally off-base to point out that there are several ways one might strike out in romantic situations: taking one too many rain checks on scheduled dates or deciding to play the field rather than settling down are just two. Baseball euphemisms for what happens when things go well on a date are abundant—and better left to the minds and dispositions of our clever readers.

Have we covered all our bases? Not even close. There are plenty more terms from baseball and other sports that have crept into our figurative parlance. Join us in the bullpen comment section to share your favorites!

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