10 Important Baseball Idioms in English

Catching a Baseball
Catch the Ball. Mike Kemp / Getty Images

 

The game of baseball has inspired probably more idioms in American English than any other sport. Here are ten important baseball idioms. Each idiom is explained in terms of the game of baseball, and how it is used in daily life by native speakers. Examples are given to provide understanding in context. You can lean more idioms by exploring short stories that use idioms in context.

ball park

A ballpark is where baseball is played.

It's used in a few expressions:

to be in the ballpark = to be in the general area of something
a ballpark figure = a financial guess that's close but not exact

I think they new project will be in the ballpark of $2 million, but I'll need to check those figures.
Give me a ballpark figure of how much the project will cost.

big hitter

The big hitter is a batter who hits many hits. These include home runs, grand slams and base hits such as doubles, and singles. 

The big hitter is used when referring to a someone in a company who has a reputation for doing well in business. This person is used to impress competition or important clients, as well as give presentations and represent the company.

We need to bring out our big hitter for this meeting.
They left the presentation up to Alice who's their big hitter when it comes to conferences.

big league / major league

The big / major league is the highest level in professional baseball.

Used as an idiom, the big league refers to the top of any professional bracket. 

She's going to NYC, the big league.
He doesn't want to be a fish in a small pond. He wants to play in the major leagues. 

cover one's bases

Defense players have to cover the bases so that runners can't steal the base and progress to making a run.

In everyday English, covering one's bases refers to making sure that a situation is completely in control and that there is a backup plan if anything goes wrong.

I think we need to talk to our lawyer just to cover our bases.
I need an assistant that's one step ahead of me and will make sure that I've covered all my bases. 

curveball

A curveball curves as it moves towards the batter. It can curve up or down, or right to left. Curveballs are hard to hit. As an idiom, curveball is used to express something that is unexpected at causes someone to adapt to a situation.

When she quit it really threw the company a curveball, and we had to replace her quickly.
This might be a curveball, but I don't want to marry you after all. 

first base

First base is the first out of four bases including first base, second base, third base and home base. Each batter must move to at least first base in order not to be out. To get to first base means that you've successfully taken the first step. 

We got to first base on the presentation. At least, they're willing to listen to us now.
Remember getting an interview is making it to first base. Getting hired is making it all the way home. 

hardball

Hardball is baseball played with a small, hard ball.

It's the game they play in the major leagues. It's the toughest baseball game there is. In life, to play hardball means to try to win at all costs, even if it gets dirty. 

When you go to work, you'll be playing hardball. No more mistakes allowed. 
I don't want to play hardball with you, but if you don't sign the contract I have no choice. 

hit / knock it out of the park

Hitting a ball out of the park is the dream of every baseball player. You hit the ball so hard, it flies out of the stadium. No one can get that ball. You've hit a home run, or even a grand slam. In business, it refers to succeeding spectacularly. 

I think he hit it out of the park during his presentation. Everyone was listening very carefully and seemed very enthused.
Don't worry, I'm sure you'll hit it out of the park. You have reason to be confident. 

hit or miss

A batter can either hit or miss a ball. Hitting is good, missing is bad and you get a strike against you. In everyday English, something that is hit or miss means that there is no guarantee of success. Perhaps you'll be successful, perhaps not.

Some people feel that finding a job is hit or miss in this economy. 
Every opportunity is hit or miss, but they need to be taken. 

home run

Home run refers to a hit that allows the batter to run all the way around the bases and score a run. It's used as an expression to refer to success in English. 

This dinner is superb. You've hit a home run. 
His presentation last week was a home run.