Get Inspired: How to play Baseball & Softball

Baseball is huge in the United States, but its popularity is on the up on this side of the Atlantic too.

Baseball and its variant cousin softball are played by two teams of nine players, who take turns fielding and batting, with the home team batting second. The fielding side consists of a pitcher, catcher, four infielders and three outfielders.

The pitcher throws overhand in baseball, or underhand in softball, to the home plate - where the batter is waiting. The batter attempts to hit the pitches and then get on base, while the fielders attempt to get the batter out. A run is scored every time a batter manages to touch each of the four bases, crossing the last ("home plate") to score.

Softball, which you may find easier to play in the UK with many teams across the home nations, involves a larger ball and smaller field but the fundamentals are the same.

Why is it good for you?

Running, batting and throwing provide similar exercise to that you'd expect from a cricket game. Batting will build upper-body strength and a sprint around the bases, coupled with some fielding, will take care of around 400 calories in a game.

Get involved

BaseballSoftballUK  (BSUK) works to increase participation in the UK and is a great place to start, including a Get in the game!  section devoted to information about starting out.

The diamond finder  provides a handy club and facilities guide to anyone looking for their nearest club.

There are variants of baseball and softball for all ages, with games like slowpitch offering an easier introduction to the sport.

History

Baseball is often seen as an all-American game but recent research argues that early games actually took place in England. As early as September 1749, references were made to a game of baseball between the Prince Of Wales and Earl Of Middlesex.

Oxford University baseball team

The Oxford University baseball team face their counterparts from Chelsea in 1925

The modern form of baseball began to take shape when, in 1871, the first professional league was formed.

The early 20th Century saw the introduction of the two major US leagues, the National and American, which remain to this day as the foundation for Major League Baseball.

Are you inspired to try Baseball or Softball? Or maybe you are an enthusiast already? Get in touch and tell us your experience of the games by tweeting us on @bbcgetinspired  or email us on getinspired@bbc.co.uk.

See our full list of activity guides for more inspiration.