Cardinal Rules of Baseball

Cardinal Rules of Baseball

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Running into the first or third out of an inning at third base is a no-no.

Vincent Pugliese/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

As with any sport, baseball has its written rules, but the game's unwritten rules are often just as important. These cardinal rules convey baseball's longstanding wisdom regarding conduct in a variety of situations. Most of that conduct involves game play, but some of the unwritten rules deal with the game's etiquette and code of honor. You'll be a better and more-respected player if you learn baseball's cardinal rules.


Hitting is difficult at any level, but you can improve your odds by observing some cardinal rules for batters. Don't swing at a tough pitch -- a pitch that nips the outside corner, for example -- until you have two strikes. If you have two strikes, swing at anything close to the plate; take as few called third strikes as possible. Take the first pitch if the previous hitter walks on four straight pitches. You'll typically take a pitch when the count is 3-0.

Base Running

Don't make the first or third out of an inning at third base. Never make the first out of an inning at home. Don't slide at a fielder's knees when you're trying to break up a double play and never slide with your spikes high. If you're not stealing, be sure the pitch is going to the plate before taking a secondary lead, to avoid being picked off. Step back toward your base when a player hits a low line drive, to avoid a double play if the ball is caught by an infielder.


If one of your teammates is hit by a pitch, it's acceptable to retaliate by hitting one of your opponents, but you may not throw at anyone's head. Try to get the hitter to fish for a bad pitch when the count is 0-2. Never allow a home run on an 0-2 count. In a crucial situation, never get beat with your third or fourth best pitch. Avoid walking the leadoff man. Don't walk the tying or potential winning runs on base in the last inning. Throw as many first-pitch strikes as possible.


Outfielders should always hit the cutoff man with throws. As an infielder, do whatever is necessary to keep ground balls in front of you; catchers should do likewise on pitches in the dirt with runners on base. As an outfielder, call for any fly balls you intend to catch; but the centerfielder may call off either corner outfielder. Outfielders can call off infielders on short fly balls.