The sights, sounds and smells of the ballpark are one of the best parts about baseball.
Every baseball fan with memories of going to a game can picture the players taking the field, the smell of the hot dogs, the crack of the bat and the pop of the ball in the glove.
A big part of those ballpark sounds: Baseball's colorful jargon. Baseball has a language of its own, and when you go to a game, you'll be treated to a big chunk of it.
Here are the words you'll hear at every game.
Starting lineup -- The nine hitters who begin the game for each team. In the National League, the lineups include the two pitchers, who bat for themselves. In the American League, each team has a designated hitter (DH for short) who doesn't field and only bats, so the pitcher doesn't have to. Both starting lineups are announced before every game.
Starting pitcher -- The first pitcher of the game for each team. Starters usually pitch the bulk of the innings. Sometimes they'll last the whole game. More often, they'll get tired (generally around the 100-pitch mark or so), give up too many runs or face an unfavorable situation late in the game. Then their team will replace them with a relief pitcher.
"Batting first, the [position] …" -- The PA announcer will introduce both teams' full starting lineups at the beginning of each game -- each hitter in order, along with their defensive positions. Those positions are:
• Catcher -- the one wearing all the gear behind home plate
• Pitcher -- the one standing on the dirt mound in the middle of the diamond, throwing the ball to the catcher
• First baseman, second baseman, shortstop, third baseman -- right to left, the four players in the infield, stationed behind the pitcher
• Left fielder, center fielder, right fielder -- the three players in the outfield, from left to right (naturally)
• Designated hitter -- if it's an AL game, the player who's batting for the pitcher
On the mound -- The pitcher who's pitching. You'll hear this phrase with the announcement of the starting pitchers at the beginning of the game.
Leading off -- The No. 1 batter in the lineup. A team's leadoff hitter is often a speedster who can steal bases and make exciting things happen. "Leading off" can also just refer to the first batter of an inning.
"Play ball!" -- The game's starting!
Balls / strikes / outs / innings / runs -- OK, you might not always hear these, exactly, but you'll see them. These are the building-block units of baseball, and they're on every scoreboard. Four balls to a walk, three strikes to a strikeout, three outs to an inning, nine innings to a game. Whichever team scores more runs wins.
Top of the order -- The first section of hitters in the lineup. Usually the best hitters on the team, because they'll get to bat the most often. Once the No. 9 hitter bats (he's at the bottom of the order) and the No. 1 hitter comes to the plate again, it's back to the top of the order.
Cleanup -- The No. 4 hitter in the batting order. So called because he is usually a home run hitter who can "clean up" the bases with a big hit that scores the runners who got on base before he came up.
On deck -- The hitter who's up next. You'll see him swinging a bat next to his team's dugout in the "on-deck circle," studying the pitcher and preparing for his turn at bat.
"Let's go [team]!" -- The most common baseball fan chant.
"Come on, Blue!" -- This comes from hecklers in the stands. "Blue" is the umpire (blue generally being the color of his shirt). When fans don't like the ump's call -- especially on balls and strikes -- you'll hear them yell this.
Outside / inside / high / low -- If an umpire calls a strike and fans think the pitch wasn't over the plate, or below the batter's knees, or up by the letters on his uniform, they tend to express exactly where they thought it was. Alternatively, if one of the hitters on their team takes a close pitch for a ball, you might hear a fan approve of the decision not to swing and agree that, yes, that pitch was indeed outside.
"Where was that?" -- Conversely, if a fan thinks a pitch was a strike and the umpire calls it a ball, said fan might send this question in the umpire's general direction ... or to anyone in the crowd who will listen. That pitch couldn't have been outside, or inside, or low, or high. So where was it?
"Good eye!" -- When a batter doesn't swing at a close pitch and is rewarded by the umpire calling it a ball, appreciative fans will call out support for their batter. He had a good eye -- he could see the pitch wasn't a strike and decide not to swing.
Heat / gas -- When a pitcher is throwing hard, you can hear the sizzle of the ball on its way to the plate and the smack of the ball into the catcher's mitt. You can also hear fans chatter that their guy is bringing the heat, or throwing gas.
"Throw the [fastball / curve / changeup / etc.]" -- Fans often have recommendations as to which type of pitch their pitcher should throw to strike a batter out. They won't hesitate to inform said pitcher, or their fellow fans, of what that pitch is.
"Throw strikes!" -- More advice for a pitcher who's having trouble throwing the ball over the plate.
Crushed -- When the batter hits the ball really far.
Dinger -- A home run. Might also be called a jack, or a shot, or a blast, or a bomb, or any other number of colorful descriptors.
"That's gone!" -- When a batter crushes a dinger, fans will say this as the ball prepares to make its exit from the field, even before it sails over the fence into the stands.
Got robbed -- When a fielder makes an amazing play, the batter got robbed of a hit.
Cannon -- A player who has a strong arm might be described as "having a cannon," and an especially strong throw could also be called a cannon.
Foul / fair -- If a ball is hit between the white lines extending into left field and right field, it's "fair" and in play. If it's hit outside those lines, or into the stands, it's "foul" and out of play, and the batter keeps hitting. If a player crushes a ball down the left-field line or right-field line, you might hear hopeful fans trying to will it foul or fair, depending on who they're rooting for.
Full count -- 3 balls, 2 strikes. One more ball is a walk, one more strike is a strikeout. In other words, the count is full of balls and strikes.
RBI -- A baseball stat that stands for "run batted in." A hitter usually gets credit for an RBI if he gets a hit that scores a runner. A good hitter who has a knack for bringing runners home might be an "RBI machine."
Call to the bullpen -- This is when a team changes its pitcher. The manager will walk out of the dugout and signal to the bullpen -- where the relief pitchers warm up, usually beyond the outfield fence but at some stadiums along the left-field and right-field lines -- for the new pitcher to come into the game. There are also literal calls to the bullpen: every dugout has a phone with a direct line to the bullpen so the manager or pitching coach can call and tell a certain pitcher to start warming up.
Pinch-hitting -- When a hitter is replaced by a new one, his replacement is called a pinch-hitter. A team might use a pinch-hitter to create a more favorable matchup against a certain pitcher, or if they want a certain type of hitter at the plate for a specific game situation (for example, bringing in a power hitter when a home run would tie the game).
"Get your [hot dogs / peanuts / Cracker Jack] here!" -- No ballpark experience would be complete without the vendors patrolling the stands and hawking their wares. Hot dogs, peanuts and Cracker Jack are baseball emblems.
Seventh-inning stretch -- A longstanding baseball tradition. Between the top of the seventh and the bottom of the seventh, fans all around the ballpark will get out of their seats ... and stretch. This is when "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" plays.
Take Me Out to the Ball Game -- The unofficial anthem of baseball. This song is played at every game during the seventh-inning stretch.
"One, two, three strikes you're out …" -- One of the famous lines of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." It's one of the fundamental truths about baseball that every batter gets three strikes before he's out. Heck, it might as well be one of the fundamental truths about the universe.