Ground Rules
by Paul Niquette
Adapted from 101 Words I Don't Use
Copyright ©1996 Resource Books All rights reserved.
ground rule n. Any rule of procedure modified or amended to fit a particular situation or event.
he National Pastime has enriched the English Language.  Just consider the new meanings given to old words...
base and plate,
diamond and mound,
ball and strike,
count and error,
out and safe,
balk and slide,
curve and hit,
bat and field,
run and walk,
dugout and bullpen.
There are modified words...
...and combined words...
infield and outfield,
run-down and squeeze-play,
flyball and foulball,
fastball and change-up.

The game is nothing without its superstitions (like never speaking of a no-hitter while it's in progress) and its numbers: you have your averages (earned-run and batting); you have your streaks and slumps (consecutive innings, games, hits).  I have no doubt that there's a computation of the number of flies caught in left field which were hit in even-numbered innings during odd-numbered years by righthanded batters off lefthanded pitchers.  Lefthanders, by the way, are called southpaws because home plate lies to the west in the typical ballpark -- park not stadium (baseball may be the only professional sport played in a park).

An open-ended enterprise unhurried by clocks, baseball fosters a contemplative state of mind (see intellectual).  Am I alone in the disappointment that all the game's gifted speakers and writers, which include...

Berra and Bouton,
Durocher and Luciano,
 Schact and Stengel
...have yet to come up with a replacement for runs batted in (see iotacism)?  The B in RBI (pronounced arby-aye) stands for batted.  It is not necessary to have scored a hit.  Your team can score a run (the R in RBI) on a sacrifice fly, for example.  In the past tense, naturally, it's sacrifice flied.  Otherwise you just flied out with a man left on (never mind the gender specificity) or with the bases loaded.

aseball's contributions to verbal conciseness are many.

You describe a disadvantage as coming to bat with two strikes against you, a risky venture as swinging for the fences, and a timid policy as bunting down the line. Low quality is bush-league, and a dishonest person is a foul ball.  Sometimes you can tell a good idea right off the bat, and you go to bat for a person you support even if he has screwball ideas.  To confirm an appontment, you will touch base. You accept an approximation if it's in the ballpark and reject a proposal if it's out in left field.
Ballparks are not all built exactly the same.  A ground rule may be necessary to accommodate the peculiarities of a particular playing field. That was its original meaning. A ground rule double, for example, mandates a two bagger as the limit for a runner's progress when he hits a line drive or a grounder that gets lost in the ivy climbing on the right-field fence.

Not surprising, the expression ground rule was picked up for use outside baseball.  Thus, prior to starting a business meeting, one might establish ground rules for that session.  Gradually ground rules would be adopted for departments and even whole companies -- sort of a nickname for "policies."  An entire industry might even be said to operate under a set of ground rules.  Same with a profession or a trade, for that matter.  Eventually nations -- and the world.

Now, in my book, that's going too far.  Why not appropriate league rules and game rules?

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