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Girls playing pesäpallo in Siilinjärvi

Pesäpallo (Finnish pronunciation: [pesæpɑlːo]; Swedish: Boboll, also referred to as "Finnish baseball") is a fast-moving ball sport that's quite often referred to as the national sport of Finland and has some presence in other countries, such as Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Australia, and Northern Ontario in Canada (Both Canada and Australia have high Finnish and Scandinavian populations). The game is similar to brännboll, rounders, baseball and lapta.

Pesäpallo was developed and refined by Lauri "Tahko" Pihkala, who based it on baseball and some local games, around 1910–1920. The rules have remained the same since, aside from some fine-tuning in the 1990s by the Pesäpalloliitto, the governing pesäpallo federation in Finland. The basic structure of the game is identical to baseball's. Pesäpallo has 3 out-bases and a homebase. Players use a bat to hit the ball out to fielders, then move from base to base trying to arrive before the ball.

Pesäpallo was a demonstration sport at the 1952 Summer Olympics, held in Helsinki, Finland.

Contents

Differences

Men's pesis/pesäpallo field.

The more significant differences from baseball are:

  • The first bounce of the ball is decisive: It must bounce within the play area, and may then roll over a line and still be in play. The back line on the fly counts as a foul ball. The foul lines are also on the sides and the front of the field. So if a player hits a very hard hit that would be a certain home run in baseball, it is counted as a strike/foul in pesäpallo. This increases the tactical approach but decreases the challenge of hitting hard.
  • A batting team's batting inning ends not when three batters have failed to score, but when either three batters have all been physically beaten by the ball (a ball catch straight off the bat does not suffice, it is called 'koppi' a middle ground between scoring and being out) or when the entire regular team of nine has batted and are all either in koppi, out on a base or run-out (but if a player scores, he liberates all his koppi players, making them eligible to bat again in that inning)
  • Catching a ball in flight is not an out, but forces all runners not on a base to return to home base (this is called a "haava", lit. "a wound" or simply "koppi", "a catch"). This gives the batter a chance to "move the responsibility" of advancing runners to the next batter if he thinks he's not good enough for the task. Also, "wounded" players are not allowed to bat unless two runs have scored after the "wounding". Hence the team can run out of players.
  • A batter's box is removed and the home plate serves as a pitching plate, which is round with a diameter of 0.6 metres (24 in). All other batting team players stand in a semicircle near the batter, either awaiting their turn to bat, or one step further back in 'koppi'
  • Pitches are tossed straight upwards from above the batters plate (100% vertical tosses), and the batter hits the ball when it drops down. There is no catcher (catcher is one of the closest fielders to the home base); the ball hitting the pitching plate is a miss/strike.
  • Players have no difficulty hitting the ball when it is pitched upwards, so the main target is not just hitting the ball, it is positioning the hit correctly (very short hits - bunts - help other runners advance bases [like stolen bases but with the ball hit and hence counting as a strike when the batter stays back after hitting the ball], a good homing hit is batted between the fielders in the midfield and if the ball slips far away from the field, it is easy to hit a home run, etc.). The home run is not so much good hitting as weak fielding.
  • A home run is scored when the batter reaches third base before the ball (the ball is in play even if it has bounced to the river near the field). After a home run the runner can stay at third base and try to score another run.
  • The strike zone is rather different; the ball is good if it was lifted at least one meter (3.2 ft) above the heads and it hits the pitching plate.
  • Walking requires fewer invalid pitches (when the field is empty of runners, one invalid pitch allows a walk, otherwise two). A walk advances the runner closest to home base; if there is a runner at third base, that player shall score.
  • The batter is not required to run after hitting the ball on his first or second strike. But, after two strikes, when the pitcher releases the ball for the pitch, the batter can drop his bat and try to run to first base. The pitcher must wait until the ball bounces from the pitching plate before he can grab it [the absence of this rule would lead to serious injuries] and try to throw the runner out at first - so even at the top level, the runner stands a good chance of making it to first base without having hit the ball.
  • Force outs are always outs: if the runner is off the base and the ball is in the control of a defensive player at the next base, the runner is out.
  • The bases are not laid in a square; the players have to 'zig zag' the court (see chart).
  • When entering a base or the home base, the runner only has to cross the line of the base; there are no actual cushion bases like in baseball, only circular lines in the sand showing where each base is.
  • The pitcher or the fielders in the bases don't have any plates to touch to make an out; having only a foot in the base (a much larger area compared to the bases used in baseball) is enough.
  • The attacking team uses a color coded fan to signal the runners when to move. The fan is multicoloured, held by the manager of the team. Color sequence is decided prior to the game. When the manager puts on the specified colour order and holds the fan over his head, the runners know to run. Sometimes even a certain player holding his bat up is the "code".
  • The offensive team can "skip" batters. If there are no runners in the field, the team manager has an option to jump over his weaker batters and go straight to his "big guns" if he thinks it necessary. This is only possible in super pesis, where each team has a small allowance of 'jokers' to play.
  • The final score of the game is not the runs scored but "wins" of two periods, which include four innings each. To win a period, a team must have scored more runs in that period. In the event that both teams have scored the same number of times in a period, the team with more home runs wins the period, if this is also equal, then neither team receives a period win point, and hence both lose ground in the overall league table. If after the 2×4 innings are played, the overall periods won score is either 0-0 or 1-1, then a sudden death overtime sequence is initiated.

Players

Batter hitting the ball

The team playing the defensive half has nine players in the field. The pitcher is positioned in the home base. A catcher plays in the infield on the side of the second base (NOT wearing the same equipment as the catcher in baseball. Each of the three bases has its baseman and an additional two shortstopps playing close to the second and third bases. Two outfielders cover the outfield.

The team playing the offensive half has nine batters and three additional batters known as jokers(The term "joker" refers to a wild card rather than a jester). Whereas ordinary batters must bat in a pre-designated batting order, the joker batters are allowed to breach the batting order.

Fast runners are usually positioned in the front of the batting order, after which a player who specializes in switching players (called runners) between bases. After that comes a player specializing in scoring runners home. The jokers are a batting joker (specializes in force play scoring (all bases have runners)), a switching joker (specializes in switching runners between bases), and a runner joker (specializes in advancing in the field). In practise many teams often have two batting jokers and one runner joker, or vice versa. In these batting orders the switching jokers are effectively omitted.

Both teams have a pelinjohtaja, lit. a game leader or more simply, a manager. The captain of the team - one of the players - tries to beat the other team's captain in the hutunkeitto, draw of choice which determines which team gets to choose whether it will want to start in the offensive or the defensive half. The manager is also like a coach and he does not take part in the actual game.

Rules

The game is overseen by an Umpire-in-chief who is assisted by a plate umpire, a 2nd base umpire, 3rd base umpire, and a Backline umpire.

The two teams play in pesäpallo court which has 3 field bases and a home base. During the offensive inning, the team is batting and during the defensive inning the team is catching, pitching and trying to Out the other team's runners. Each of the batters bats the ball and tries to advance in the field before the fielders get the ball to the next base.

A team is formed by up to two managers and up to 12 players. Nine players are allowed to be fielders in a single defensive inning. In a single offensive inning 9 players can participate in batting and 3 work as jokers. During an offensive inning a team can use each of the 3 jokers once in a batting round.

One inning has been played, after both teams have played a defensive and an offensive inning. In official pesäpallo games 2 periods of 4 innings are played. The team that has scored most runs during the period, wins the period. A period can also result in a draw. Change of innings takes place when the offensive team has gotten 3 outs or when two runs haven't been scored at the time when the player having started the offensive inning gets his/her turn at the bat and the team has used all its jokers.

If, after two periods, the game is at draw, a super inning is played. If the game is still at draw after the super inning, a scoring contest is used to resolve the game. In this a runner is positioned at the 3rd base and a batter tries to score the runner.

Equipment

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Helmet

Each player is required to wear a helmet when playing in an offensive inning. If a player sets at bat without a helmet an out can be marked for the team. The pitcher and the outfielders are not required to wear a helmet, but other fielders need to wear helmets. The helmet must be approved by PPL (Pesäpalloliitto).

Helmets are not used in the school or in informal settings.

Glove

The glove is used to ease catching the ball when playing a defensive inning. The glove used in pesäpallo differs from the one used in baseball both in characteristics and in appearance. The glove is made of leather although some manufacturers use different kinds of synthetic fibers on the back side. The inside of the glove is always made of thick leather and the main differences between gloves lie in the amount and quality of padding, the thickness of the leather, the size of the glove and its shaping.

The ball is caught into the glove's cup between the thumb and the index finger. Sometimes, however, the ball hits the palm and a properly designed glove can prevent injuries.

Other devices to catch the ball are not allowed.

Bat

The bat is a round, tapered cylinder. Previously the bats used in pesäpallo were made of wood. These were fairly brittle and did not last very long when used to hit such a heavy ball. Now, wooden bats are only used in children's games and the bats used in adult's games are made of a mixture of glass and carbon fiber. Top players use 2–5 bats during a season. The bat has to be approved by Pesäpalloliitto. The only manufacturer still producing approved bats is Karhu. Previously also Exel produced composite bats.

The biggest differences between bats lie in the weight, center of gravity, flexibility and length. The maximum length of the bat is 100 centimeters. When using a children's ball the maximum length of the bat is 90 centimeters.

The weight of the bat is considered to be its most important property. A typical bat used in Superpesis-league weighs between 580 and 620 grams. The heaviest bats weigh more than 650 grams but these are only used by strong players like batting jokers. Also lighter bats exist. For example junior players typically use bats that weigh less than 400 grams. The usual diameter for the bat's hitting point is 56 millimeters.

Spikes

The use of spikes - like in running - is not required to play pesäpallo. However, they do help the player substantially in rapid situations. Especially when playing on modern artificial grass fields - it is very slippery to ordinary sport shoes. The artificial grass differs from what is used in football fields. The material used in Pesäpallo is a mixture of sand and grass - which makes it seem like running on ball bearings.

There are only a few manufacturers producing spikes designed for pesäpallo and many players use normal running spikes. Some shoes have also spikes at the heel but mostly spikes are positioned under the ball of the foot. Usually there are seven spikes in a shoe and they are 3–15 millimeters long. When playing on artificial turf the maximum length of spikes is 6 millimeters.

Ball

Pesäpallo is only played with balls approved by Pesäpalloliitto. The circumference of the ball has to be 21.60-22.20 centimeters. The weight of the ball varies by series:

  • Men's ball 160-165 grams
  • Women's ball 135-140 grams
  • Junior ball 95-100 grams

The ball is yellow and balls approved by Pesäpalloliitto have a stamp. The balls to a game are provided by the home team. In the beginning of 2005 season a rule governing the ball's resiliency properties. The values are:

  • for a men's ball
    • a new ball's resiliency percentage (at 130 km/h) must be between 44.5-45.5 %.
    • a used ball's (70 times/130 km/h) resiliency percentage must be over 40 %.
  • for a women's ball
    • a new ball's resiliency percentage (at 130 km/h) must be between 44.5-46 %.
    • a used ball's (100 times/130 km/h) resiliency percentage must be over 43 %.
  • for a kid's ball
    • a new ball's resiliency percentage (at 130 km/h) must be between 46-49 %.
    • a used ball's (140 times/130 km/h) resiliency percentage must be over 45 %.

Competing

The Finnish championship series is known as Superpesis. Both men and women compete in their own series.

A World Cup is played internationally. In 2006 the fifth World Cup was played in Munich, Germany. Participant countries included Australia, Finland, Germany and Sweden.

See also

External links


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