Baseball Slang FTW

20 phrases tossed around from dugout to diamond


| 4 min read


Like sunflower seeds and kettle corn, particular words and phrases get tossed around at just about every baseball game. And sometimes, it can be a challenge to figure out what’s actually being said. 

Mark Whiten, 11-year MLB veteran who now coaches for Rays RBI Tampa, is fluent in baseball slang. He offered to translate the list below so the rest of us can focus on cheering and snacks.   

AROUND THE HORN. After an out, the infielders throw the ball around the diamond. Done only if no one is on base, to keep the players loose. “I don’t think it does much, but if you do it right, it looks good,” says Whiten. 

BAG. A base. 

BAD HOP. When a routine ground ball suddenly pops up. Faces beware. Whiten tries to prepare his players by saying: “Read the ball as it’s coming, get your feet in position, and when you feel like it’s in a good spot for you to field it, attack.” 

CUT OFF MAN. “It’s rare that anybody can throw a ball from the wall to a base,” explains Whiten. Instead, outfielders throw the ball to the cut off man – an infielder. The infielder makes the decision on where to throw it next to stop the base runner. 

CAUGHT NAPPING. When a player gets picked off on a base because they’re not paying attention. 

HOT CORNER. Third base. Why the fancy nickname? “Usually, when a guy turns on the ball and hits it hard, it’s coming hot,” says Whiten. Whoever’s playing 3rd base has very little time to react. 

RUNDOWN. When a runner gets stuck between two infielders who throw the ball back and forth to get the player out. “The more throws they make, the better chance the runner has of getting out of it,” says Whiten.  Also known as pickle — it’s a fan favorite. 

ACE. The best pitcher on the team. 

BRUSHBACK. A pitch that’s high, fast and on the inside. Also known as “high and tight.” The goal is to get the hitter to step back off the plate. 

BEAN BALL. A pitch that hits the batter. As in, “He got beaned.”

SOUTHPAW. A left-handed pitcher. 

THROWING HEAT/THROWING GAS. A crazy fast pitch. 

CAUGHT LOOKING. When a batter doesn’t swing at a pitch and strikes out. As Whiten likes to say, “He was looking for the local and got the express.”

BAD BALL HITTER. A batter that’s good at hitting wild pitches. 

HITTING FOR THE CYCLE. When a player hits a home run, triple, double and single in one game. Sounds impossible? “It’s rare, but it does happen,” says Whiten. There’s no official award for it – just well-earned bragging rights.

JAM THE HITTER. When the ball is hit down by the bat’s handle. Typically this happens on a fastball thrown inside, where the hitter can’t react fast enough to get the barrel of the bat on it. Overheard as, “Oh, he got jammed.” 

SWEET SPOT. The best part of the bat with which to hit the ball. “It’s where you’re going to hit the ball the best and the hardest,” says Whiten. Fun tip from Whiten: Tap the bat top-down with another bat until you don’t feel any vibrations — that’s the sweet spot. 

DINGER. A home run. 

WALK OFF. A game-winning hit by the home team. “Or it could be a bases-loaded walk,” says Whiten. Once the run comes in, the game’s over. 

GRAND SLAM. A home run when the bases are loaded. This hit brings in four runs — the most one hit can score in baseball.  

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