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Around the Horn: Baseball Terminology

Around the horn is one of the most common baseball terms out there. ESPN has even had a show by the same name since 2002; it consists of a host who asks various panel members to discuss current topics in sports. The idea comes from the aspect of the baseball diamond.

Around the Horn Baseball TerminologyThe most common use of the phrase “around the horn” occurs after a strikeout and no runners on base. After a batter strikes out, the catcher will throw the ball to the third baseman. The third baseman throws the ball to the shortstop, who then throws it to the second baseman. The second baseman tosses the ball back to the third baseman who then gives the ball back to the pitcher.

The defense will only throw the ball around the horn after the first or second out. Of course, after the third out, the players simply run off the field. Sometimes (typically in amateur level baseball) a catcher will throw the ball to the first baseman instead of the third baseman. The players will then toss the ball around the infield and back to the pitcher.

Going around the horn is done to keep the infield active between balls put in play. Usually by the time the defense is done throwing the ball around, the next batter has approached the plate ready to hit. There are times when the ball is overthrown and goes into the outfield, which is awfully embarrassing for the player who threw it. A coach or player might joke that nobody will be stealing left field after seeing that throw!

If an out is recorded in the field with less than two outs and nobody on base, the ball can also be thrown around the horn no matter who made the out. If the first baseman recorded a putout, he can start by throwing to the second baseman or shortstop. When an outfielder records a putout, he will typically throw the ball to either the second baseman or shortstop. No matter where it starts, the ball always ends going from third base to the pitcher.

Around the Horn Again

Around the Horn Baseball Terminology

Third baseman starting a double play to go around the horn

Another use of “around the horn” refers to a double play that goes from the third baseman to the second baseman and finally the first baseman. It is the same concept as the ball is thrown around the infield.

If you have been to Cooperstown Dreams Park for a youth tournament, you might have seen an “Around the Horn” competition. This is a different version of “around the horn” that involves all positions on the field. It is a timed event that crowns a champion based on the fastest time getting the ball around the horn.

The term itself might sound arbitrary. A search of its origin typically includes a theory about sailing from San Francisco around the tip of Cape Horn all the way to New York. Others include the shape of the throwing route of the ball. Your guess is as good as mine as to where it really came from.

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