Baseball teams take turns, one "out" in the field and one "in" at bat. The nine fielding positions are commonly grouped as three outfielders, four infielders, and "the battery" (two). Meanwhile the team in at bat sends nine batters to home plate one by one in fixed batting order.
The nine fielding positions are universal in high-level competitive baseball, and the actual positions taken on the field are exceptionally stable. Teams differ, and players shift, at most several steps for tactical purposes. Contrast the fielding positions in cricket and some "football" games: even within a single team, positions vary so much from time to time that they have different names. What varies in baseball is how people think and write about the game, occasionally using infielders to mean a different group of positions. In writing, such a departure from the standard grouping should be explained.
|Outfielders:||Left field | Center field | Right field|
|Infielders:||3rd base | Shortstop | 2nd base | 1st base|
In the standard arrangement of a baseball team in the field, three players are in the distant outfield and six on the infield, the square baseball diamond (light brown in the diagram) plus a rounded region beyond it (roughly where "3B SS 2B 1B" is written in the diagram).
The infielders are the four who play along the basepaths from first base to second base to third base, namely the first baseman (1B), second baseman (2B), shortstop (SS) and third baseman (3B). The pitcher (P) and catcher (C) also play on the infield but they are distinct from the infielders and are jointly called the battery. The other three players are called outfielders and they usually play far out beyond the basepaths.
Utility infielders are bench players who can play at least two infield positions. They are often weak hitters but skilled fielders who play in the late innings when the team leads, as defensive substitutes.
Among the four infielders in modern professional play, shortstops are generally the best fielders, followed by second basemen, third basemen, and first basemen in that order. First basemen should be adept at fielding poorly thrown balls, as many a throw is hurried to put out the batter-runner on a close play at first base. Normally, first and third basemen are better hitters than second basemen and shortstops. Second basemen and shortstops are often called "middle infielders" while third basemen and first baseman are called "corner infielders" or simply "corners".
In professional play, essentially all shortstops and second and third basemen throw right-handed for greater efficiency throwing down to the lower bases where force outs are available — third basemen and shortstops throwing to second base and any of the three throwing to first base. First basemen are often left-handed throwers because they usually throw in the opposite direction and because catching throws to first base is easier when catching with the right hand.
- The same may be true other varieties in the baseball family where a different number of players is used. Ten-player softball teams almost universally add one outfielder to the standard baseball nine. Early Cuban baseball teams added one infielder, using five men rather than four along the basepaths.