Every hitter has stood there and every pitcher has the chance to see who is hitting next when they look there. The on-deck circle is where a player stands when he is next up in the batting order and waiting his turn to hit. But is there any reason that players stand (or neglect to) in the on-deck circle?
The on-deck circle is often an arbitrary place on the baseball field. At the professional level, there are often actual moveable circles that are designated as the on-deck circle. These may look official and don an advertisement, but they are often uncomfortable for a player to stand on while they wait to hit. If a player has a stance that puts his feet at the edge of the circle, it does not give him a flat surface and correct preparation for his at-bat.
Many players simply choose not to stand in it – there isn’t any penalty for not doing so. It is merely the recommended location for a player to stand while he is on-deck.
The term “on-deck” was actually a naval aircraft carrier term. The other term baseball uses is “in the hole,” for a player who is about to be on deck. It too was originally a naval aircraft term. It makes sense that they found their way to the baseball field by someone who was familiar with the terms from the naval carrier and found a way to use them on the baseball diamond.
There are great opportunities to utilize the on-deck circle. Players can get their timing down when watching the opposing pitcher. Hitting is all about timing after all, so what better way than to get it as perfect as possible while in the on-deck circle? Some players do this, some players stretch and find their comfort zone mentally, while others just stand there and casually watch. It depends on the hitter and what he needs to do to get ready.
At lower levels of baseball, there is sometimes the option for a hitter to use the opposing team’s on-deck circle. This is a safety issue and applies when the on-deck hitter is in danger of being hit by a foul ball by the batter. For example, a team in the third base dugout with a right-handed hitter up would use the third base on-deck circle. The team in the first base dugout would use the same on-deck circle for right-handed hitters when they are hitting as well.
The on-deck circle is also where the leadoff hitter would be when the pitcher is tossing warm-up pitches. If the defense makes a pitching change, the hitter again would be back near the on-deck circle. Sometimes players try to creep up and get as close to the batter’s box as possible. This is highly unadvisable and also not professional. Pitcher’s do not like for hitter’s to try to get timing by standing next to the plate. Being on-deck is one thing, but standing right outside the batter’s box is borderline Bush League.
To me, the best on-deck circle is one that is a painted circle on the warning track ( or grass if there is no dirt). It gives the players a place to be that is safe and away from the field and the closest resemblance to the actual batters box. For most levels below the professional ranks, that is exactly how it is. What the hitter’s do while they wait in the on-deck circle is up to them.
Some players will swing three bats and try to be as intimidating as Casey at the Bat. Others will actually time the pitcher and increase their chances of getting a hit. Either way, the on-deck circle is a place that everyone walks through but rarely thinks about. Or talks about.