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Public Speaking: Toss Some Baseball Lingo Into Your Next Speech

Author:

Tom Lohr has eaten a hot dog at all 30 MLB ballparks and is the author of "Gone to the Dogs: In Search of the Best Ballpark Hot Dog."

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Baseball is Life

Baseball is a sport that is closely associated with the American identity. Invented in the United States, and one of the stalwarts of our lives for a century and half, it truly is the national pastime. It is one of the hallmarks of summer and on the lips of many Americans from April thru October.

Not a baseball fan? Even if you can’t appreciate the sport you talk about it more than you realize. Baseballisms permeate American english and are testament as to how much the sport is woven into the fabric of our culture. While other sports lend color to our speech, it is baseball that you will find everywhere from the boardroom to the breakroom. The next time you are called to the podium, inject some of the sport into your talk by considering a few familiar baseball catch-phrases:

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Baseballisms

  • Ballpark-”ballpark estimate,” “ballpark figure.” Meaning within reasonable accuracy.
  • Batting 1000- When someone is getting everything right. “ She is batting a thousand.”
  • Bush League- another name for the minor leagues, meaning something was less than professional. “That was a bush league move.”
  • Closer-an overpowering pitcher used to close out the game in the last inning. “Let’s bring in the closer and get this deal done.” Used to identify someone that can close a deal in your favor.
  • Cover all the Bases- to plan for every contingency.
  • Curveball- an arcing pitch designed to fool the hitter. Often used when something unexpected had happened. “Life really threw me a curveball.”
  • First Base- one can get to “first base” in an romantic relationship by usually securing a kiss. Getting to other bases is subject to wide interpretation.
  • Grand Slam- a home run with runners on every base, scoring the most points possible in an at bat. Normally used when you have achieved the best possible outcome. “We really hit a grand slam with that presentation.”
  • Grandstanding- showing off. A player who shows off to the fans who, in olden days, were seated in grandstands.
  • Hardball- delineates the difference between playing softball and baseball. A regulation baseball is significantly harder than a softball. Designates someone that has taken a tough stance. “So, you want to play hardball with me do you?”
  • Home Run- hitting the ball over the fence and out of play. Considered the touchstone of batting success and translates well to all aspects of life. Synomonous with “knocking it out of the park.” “He really hit a home run with that talk.”


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  • Inside Baseball- the strategy used to win games, often the small things that go unnoticed by the average fan. “If you need to know the details talk to Joe, he has the inside baseball.”
  • Off Base- a runner to strays too far from the base and does not have his head in the game, often leading to the him being picked off and out. “That idea is way off base.”
  • On Deck- the batter following the current batter. Signifies the person next in turn. He warms in in the “on deck circle.” “Cindy speaks first with John on deck.”
  • Right Off the Bat- means immediately. Derived from an old Mark Twain play.
  • Screwball- a pitch that arcs in the opposite direction of a curveball and breaks in an odd direction and therefore considered to be a weird pitch. “Man, Jack is a real screwball.”
  • Softball- slow, large and easy to hit as compared to a baseball (hardball). Used for something that was easy, but should have been harder. “That reporter kept asking him softball questions.”
  • Swing for the Fences- try to hit a ball over the fence making it a home run. Meaning give it your best effort and aim big. “Sam really swung for the fences on that proposal.”
  • Touch Base- players have to make contact with each base while running around the diamond. “Let’s touch base before your trip begins.”
  • Whole New Ballgame- a turn of events has drastically altered the game in progress; a change in score or a key injury for example. “With this corporate takeover, it’s a whole new ballgame.”

Take Your Audience Out to the Ballgame

There are other examples of baseball peppered throughout our speech. Those listed are the most common. When planning your next talk, you can add seasonal color by sliding in a few baseballisms and knock your next presentation out of the park. If you plan on mingling with your audience following your speech, a good ice breaker it to know something quirky about every major league ballpark. However, be wary if you have an international audience. Baseball is mainly ingrained into the American psyche, if you pitch a speech to a global crowd, they might think you are coming out of left field.

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