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Randy Gibson Emelia Fuentes English 1101 November 9th , 2013

The Talk of Baseball


The talk of baseball is a very unique form of discourse, very specific to the sport of baseball. Even within the discourse of baseball there are different forms and dialects used in different parts of the country and world. While the list of baseball discourse is very extensive and hard to grasp as an outsider, it can be learned by becoming engulfed in the culture of the sport. Little research has been done on the discourse of baseball but what has been done is readily available on the World Wide Web. This research is really best summed up in a website from Major League baseball, which contains all of the Basic Lingo of baseball. While this website is a great resource to simply get the vocabulary and what it means, it does not offer an insight as to where the vocabulary came from and what its purpose is. Baseball is widely known as Americas pastime and yet today the average American is unaware of what common baseball terms such as On-deck, in the hole, and turn two mean. The average baseball player however by age 10 is well aware of these words and what they mean. The sport of baseball is slowly losing popularity in the United States and the common knowledge of the discourse is dying with it. There is little research done around the language of Americas past time and the meaning and purposes the discourse with in it has. This ethnography will define how baseball is a discourse community and a community of practice, and the research within it will define many of the common terms used with in the discourse, what they are used for and what purpose they serve for the discourse community. The research that has been gathered through interviews, observation of the discourse community, and the structure of the community of a high school baseball team.
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Randy Gibson Emelia Fuentes English 1101 November 9th , 2013

This ethnography features an interview from a current high school baseball player named Michael Finney from Havelock, North Carolina. Michael is a senior baseball player that has played for Havelock High School for four years. He is the current team captain of the 2013- 2014 Havelock Rams baseball team. Michael has been playing baseball for a total of fifteen years. He started playing the game of baseball at the age of three because his father had a great passion for the game and wanted Michael to continue the Finney tradition of playing baseball. Michael soon became enthralled with the sport and spent the majority of his youth playing baseball year round. His father is the reason that he became involved in the discourse community and Michael is now fluent in the language of baseball. This ethnography also contains research from the observation of high school baseball practices, games, and camps where high school players try to showcase their talents to college coaches in hopes of earning a scholarship and playing at the next level. These observations were conducted through a live baseball camp for high school players looking to play at the college level held by Pitt County Community college. This camp was used as a forum for players to show their talent to the coaches. This was an excellent example to show how baseball is a community of practice. This camp illustrated this through the way that people came together from completely different places and were able to communicate using baseball discourse without needing any instruction. The practices and game observations were drawn from many years of the game of baseball at the high school level. As mentioned above the World Wide Web does not have a lot of information on the discourse of baseball but it has some. The information on the World Wide Web can be accessed

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Randy Gibson Emelia Fuentes English 1101 November 9th , 2013

through many sources, the most helpful and inclusive of these sources being the Major League Baseball website, official info. This website has a mass of information on baseball including the discourse used, the official rules, how to keep score, what the statistics are for baseball and what they mean, and the abbreviations for these statistics. Another source used in this ethnography is the language of baseball on about.com. The article The language of baseball says that no other sport has contributed more words to American English with than baseball. This article breaks down many sayings from books in about English language and how baseball has influenced it. Baseball is a sport originated in the United States of America with the first game being played in New York City in 1845, by the New York Knickerbocker baseball club and some cricket players. From that point in history baseball took off quickly becoming played around the country in small leagues and recreational settings until the first professional baseball game ever played in 1871. This history made baseball a distinct and strictly American sport for the early years, where it held the spot of the most watched sport in the United States until the emergence of the National Football League. The sport eventually spread too many other countries where it took its discourse. The sport of baseball is now known and played and spectated around the world. Baseball can both be considered a discourse community and a community of practice. A discourse community is a group of communicators with a common goal or interest that adopts certain preferred ways of participating in public discussion. By this definition an individual baseball team is a discourse community because they share similar language and signals such as

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Randy Gibson Emelia Fuentes English 1101 November 9th , 2013

signs from the coach and signs from the catcher to the infield and pitcher. The common goal for an individual team is to win. Their interests are to improve the way that they work together and make the way that they play on the field as efficient towards winning as possible. A community of practice is where a group or team share a common practice or activity, but not common goal. Therefore baseball as a whole, from all ages, countries, and levels is a community of practice because the same discourse is used but they do not have the same goals. The discourse in baseball is as unique as the sport itself. Some of the common terms used by baseball players are on-deck, which means to be the next up to bat, in the hole, which means to be the person up to bat after the person on-deck. These terms are just a very small example of the terms just for the batting order. Once a player gets to the plate he may see a fastball or a ball thrown by the pitcher as hard as he can, or a curve ball which is a ball thrown with so much sideways spin it actually travels sideways through the air. A batter could also receive a changeup which is a ball thrown slower than the fastball but appears to be the same as the fastball. Those are just a few examples of the discourse used just in the process of getting a player to bat and actually seeing a pitch from the pitcher. Once a player hits the ball they can have either a ground ball, which is a ball hit straight onto the ground or a pop fly which is a ball hit straight up. The batter could also hit a line drive which is a ball hit in a straight trajectory from the bat and not having too much rise or fall until losing momentum. If the ball is caught in the air it is called a fly out and if the ball is caught on the ground and thrown to first base before the runner gets there it is called a ground out. Once a batter arrives safely on first base they are subjected to more coaching. Generally a coach from

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Randy Gibson Emelia Fuentes English 1101 November 9th , 2013

the third baseline will be giving signals to the runner and the batter so that they can execute a play together without the defense knowing what they are trying to do. These are some good examples of discourse used on the field, but there is just as much discourse used between players and to record what is happening on the field. For example if a ball is grounded to the second baseman and thrown to the first basemen it is called a 4-3 play. This would be something written in a scorebook or said by an announcer or analyst watching the game. Also there is discourse for certain achievements with in the game, for example if you hit a homerun, triple, double, and single it is called a hitting for the cycle. If a pitcher does not give up any hits to the opposing team then it is called a no-hitter. If the pitcher gives up no hits, runs, or walks it is called a perfect game and is very rare in the game of baseball. Baseball players are overall very relaxed people and this is demonstrated in the discourse used. However as demonstrated above the discourse of baseball can be hard to understand without being engaged in the game and the culture. Overall the purpose of the discourse around baseball is to keep everything uniform and efficient. It has evolved since the beginning mostly from slang that makes sense for it to be called for example a curve ball curves in the air towards the batter. However some of it comes from random activities that the terms made sense for and therefore were brought in for, such as, the on-deck means that you are next to bat came from the navy when you are on the deck of the ship waiting to be the next into the action. In conclusion, the discourse used in baseball has evolved over the years and is more specific in a discourse community than a community of practice, however the basic vocabulary

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Randy Gibson Emelia Fuentes English 1101 November 9th , 2013

and discourse is the same. From 1845 to now baseball has been a major event in the United States and the discourse from it has spread throughout the English language.

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Randy Gibson Emelia Fuentes English 1101 November 9th , 2013

Work Cited "Baseball Basics: Lingo | MLB.com: Official Info." Major League Baseball. Major League Baseball Publishing, n.d. Web. 08 Nov. 2013.

"The Language of Baseball." About.com Grammar & Composition. About.com, n.d. Web. 08 Nov. 2013.

"Who Invented Baseball?" History.com. A&E Television Networks, 27 Mar. 2013. Web. 08 Nov. 2013.

"Discourse Community Definition." Discourse Community Definition. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Nov. 2013.

Finney, Michael. Personal Interview 6 Nov. 2013.

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