The concept of a sport involving the hitting of a ball with a bat and running a certain distance before the ball is caught probably dates back 4,000 years to a game played by Egyptian shepherds. Over the centuries, the sport took various forms in Europe and the Near East, and eventually led to the development of baseball, as we know it, in the United States. In 1839, as a form of relaxation, General Abner Doubleday invited his soldiers, who were posted in Cooperstown, New York, to play a game that entailed hitting a ball with a bat and running a circuit made up of several bases. In 1845, Alexander Cartwright founded the first club, The New York Knickerbockers. Professional clubs first appeared in 1871, and the National League, the first professional league, was founded in 1876. Its first rival, the American League, was formed in 1901. Two years later, the top teams from both leagues met head-to-head in the World Series, a media event created by the New York World newspaper. Certain changes were introduced in 1904, including the distance between pitcher and batter, and modern baseball was born. The sport is primarily played by men, and was officially included in the Olympic games in 1992. The World Cup, featuring national teams, has been held since 1938 (every two years since 1974).
A baseball game is played between 2 teams of 9 players each, and lasts 9 innings. Each inning has 2 halves, with the teams alternating from offense to defense. The goal of the offensive team is to hit the ball with a bat and score runs. The defensive team throws the ball, and tries to prevent the offensive team from reaching the bases. A run is scored when an offensive player returns to the starting point, or home plate, after having touched the other 3 bases.
Players normally turn professional at around age 23. They reach their peak performance at around 28-29 years of age, and a career can continue until they are about 34-35 years old.
The sport of baseball requires perfectly coordinated movements, excellent reflexes, and a keen sense of anticipation. The legs, thighs, knees and ankles are used extensively during a game, both on offense (when batting and running) and on defense (when pitching or throwing). The arms (throwing and hitting), the shoulders, the back and the abdominal muscles are also used extensively and must be kept in shape through muscle building exercises and weight training, before the players practice hitting and throwing.
For professionals, who play almost every day for 6 months, daily training involves a warm-up session, jogging and stretching before practice. Practice involves throwing and catching, followed by batting practice. Players do most of their preparation work (muscle building, athletic training) before the season starts.