In many occasions, baseball had been equated to the American spirit. Somebody said that “whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball”. Here is an addendum: whoever wants to learn baseball must also learn its “sign language”.

For such an open and physical sport as baseball, baseball players still plays around with some signs and signals stuff they love to perpetrate.

Strategies

Baseball teams usually do not like to share information of moves with their rivals. During the game, the players and their coaches pass on signals among themselves in hand signs and others.

The following are some common forms of hand signals passed around. Of course, the one who sends out these signals expects the receiver of the signal to understand and follow them to the letter. Sometimes, it gets mixed up on the way.

The catcher

This person is much more than a stop sign in human form. Typically, he is responsible for the entire defense of his team from his position behind the home plate.

Since he is responsible of their team’s game, he “calls the game”. Calling requires that he study (and therefore, should know) all the tendencies of the opposing batters and their pitchers.

He will then use this knowledge to select the appropriate pitch to his pitcher. The message is sent through using a hand signal.

Signs

These are the pre-determined hand and arm signals known before the game begins. All the pitchers and the catchers must know the signs for each game.

An example might be one finger for fast ball, two for a curve ball, three for a slider and shaking the fingers means a change-up. They have signs for intended pitch locations, such as low or inside and for positioning the infield.

Stolen signs

Like thieves, opposing teams try to steal each other’s signs. Usually, this opportunity comes in when there is a runner at second base.

This runner is in a very good position to see the signals from the catcher. He will then relay this information to the batter with signs of their own.

Protecting the signs

Both teams make sure that their opponents will not steal their signs. For the catcher, he makes sure to hide his sign-making hand between his knees and his catcher’s mitt.

This ensures that coaches and runners at the first and third bases cannot see the sign.

Changing signs

If there is indication that the signs have been stolen, the catcher changes the signs. He might do this by adjusting his mask in a particular manner, or by some repetition of finger signals (like one finger followed by a fist).

The team usually has a sign headlining a group of signals. An example would be that this time, one finger means a curve instead of a fast ball.

The mound conference

When there is confusion between the catcher and the pitcher, the catchers calls a time out and goes to the mound. There, he will talk with his pitcher – with their gloves in front of their mouths.

The reason is simple. They would not want a lip-reader to know what they are talking about. Want to learn baseball? Learn its sign language.