In almost two centuries since it was first played on the continent, baseball has become an integral part of American history, culture, and way of life.
Dubbed the “national pastime” baseball has been a part of growing up for almost everyone born in the US.
Its influence and impact have spread beyond the game itself, to movies, music, literature, and politics.
So, there’s no doubt over baseball’s importance and popularity. But, is baseball a real sport?
This has been the hot topic practically since the first pitch was thrown.
A lot of people don’t think that baseball adheres to the strict definition of what the sport actually is and often consider it to be merely a game – a pastime.
On the other hand, any true baseball fan will take offense at such a claim and readily offer numerous evidence the baseball, in fact, is a sport.
Is Baseball A Real Sport?
To determine if baseball is a sport, we should first look into what actually constitutes a sport.
Per most widely accepted definitions, criteria to consider a certain game a sport are as follows:
- the activity involves physical exertion and skill
- competitive in nature
- governed by a predetermined set of rules
Those who consider baseball to be a sport will argue that it checks each of these conditions.
Those who argue against it will say that baseball lacks each of these criteria compared to other traditional sports such as football, hockey, or basketball.
While they have some valid arguments, also a lot of them are a result of a lack of understanding of the game of baseball and come from people who actually never practiced it.
I’ll try to investigate each of these criteria and see how baseball fits in.
Does Baseball Require Physical Prowess and Skill?
Casual observers of baseball will often wrongly conclude that baseball is simple, and requires a limited set of skills that is fairly easy to master.
The fact is, everyone can play baseball. The same can be said about any other sport.
However, playing baseball without skills and physical preparedness can be done just for fun.
Achieving any success in the game, not to mention getting to the pros, requires a lot of effort, practice, and hours spent training and getting your body in shape.
People who never played baseball at a high level usually don’t have any idea how hard it is.
Pitching a baseball inside a strike zone, or hitting 100 mph fastball so it flies a couple of hundred feet requires a combination of several top-notch abilities.
Players at this level have to possess strength, technique, good reaction, discipline, and nerves of steel to be able to compete.
Are Baseball Players Athletes?
One of the key points those who don’t consider baseball a sport make is that baseball players are not athletes.
To some extent, this may be true. Legendary John Kruk often referred to himself as not an athlete, but a baseball player.
In addition, we’ve seen plenty of top players, such as CC Sabathia, who were famously overweight.
However, a top athlete doesn’t necessarily have to adhere to our ideal of a chiseled and muscular body.
Most of the players on the baseball team have to be able to do more than one thing.
To play at a high level you have to be able to run and react in split second.
The athletic effort is a bit different than in other sports. Instead of constant motion, baseball players are exposed to short high-intensity bursts.
For many, this is much more taxing on the body than just running around constantly.
How Competitive is Baseball?
Claims that baseball lacks competitiveness and excitement to be considered a sport can only come from people who don’t truly understand the game.
Only a casual observer may complain about the lack of excitement during a baseball game.
Sure, it doesn’t feature non-stop action like basketball or the raw intensity and violence of football.
But, there is still plenty of excitement in baseball. It’s just delivered in a different way.
Watching an MLB playoff game, not to mention World Series, can provide some of the most nerve-racking experiences out of any sport.
Plus, hardly any sport features swift shifts in momentum like baseball.
Practically every moment can provide one team or the other a decisive advantage. Blink, and you may miss it. Furthermore, anyone can win on any given day.
No team can go the whole season undefeated. Even the best teams in history lost more than 35 games.
Is Baseball Governed by a Set of Rules?
Not only is baseball governed by a predetermined set of rules, but it probably has the oldest rulebook out of any sport.
You can hardly find any sport that cares so much about its tradition than baseball.
The game today is not so much different than the game that was played more than a century ago.
Even when governing bodies try to implement a slight change of rules, it’s often met with strong resistance from baseball puritans.
Truth be told, baseball rules are now the easiest to understand, especially for the newcomers to the sport.
And that’s likely one of the reasons why they tend to diminish baseball by proclaiming that it’s not a true sport.
If you don’t think that baseball is a sport, you should probably try to get more invested in it.
Try to put yourself in the roles of players and coaches and you’ll easily understand that baseball is not only a sport but one of the most interesting and exciting ones.
The game of baseball is so much more than just scoring and once you understand that you’ll be able to enjoy it in all of its glory.
After all, baseball is now an Olympic sport which certainly accounts for something. But, whether you consider it a sport or not is really not that important.
You can call it whatever you like as long as you can enjoy it and appreciate the effort and skill of players on the field.