Baseball can be argued as the most difficult major sport in the world. As the saying goes, hitters are going up to the plate trying to hit a round ball with a round bat. If the hitter gets three hits out of 10 tries, they are considered successful.
It goes well beyond hitting the baseball. It is a challenging sport in many different ways. Is it the hardest sport in the world? These nine reasons why baseball is the hardest sport will have non-players thinking about how tough players have it.
1. Accepting Failure
Baseball is a game of failure in so many ways. An average person might not want to think of it that way, but there is a lot of pressure on players to perform with a low success rate.
A perfect example is looking at how the game goes for a hitter. They might have a positive outcome of getting on base three times out of 10 (not counting walks).
If they do that, they are going to play at the MLB level for a long time and possibly reach the All-Star/Hall of Fame level. That means seven out of 10 times, they are failing.
Players need a lot of mental toughness to get through the bad times of a season. With there being so many games, bad stretches can start to pile up and play with a person’s mind. A bad day turns into a bad week or month if a player can’t accept that some days just won’t go well for them.
2. Reaction Time
No baseball player is going to have success if their reaction time isn’t sharp. Regardless of the position a player plays, there will be a short amount of time to make adjustments.
At the plate, hitters have tenths of a second to figure out if they should swing or not. Pitchers are only throwing harder and harder these days, which is making it difficult for hitters to even make contact.
As fast as the ball comes into the plate, it can leave the bat even harder. Pitchers need to have the reaction time to protect themselves from a line drive right back at their face. Infielders at first and third base also have very little time to react to a hard-hit ball right at them.
Outfielders need to read balls off the bat instantly to have a chance to get to balls way out of reach. It’s a very reaction-based game, and no player is going to get away with not being able to take care of business.
Baseball players need to excel on both sides of the ball to find long-term success. The only exception to that rule is designated hitter and pitcher. Designated hitters only hit in today’s game, while pitchers take the mound and focus on pitching only (except for rare plate appearances).
Certain positions rely on versatility more than others. As an example, premium positions like centerfield, middle infield, and catcher put a lot of emphasis on defense. Catchers, in particular, will need to control a pitching staff, frame pitches, block balls in the dirt, and lead the defense. Hitting is secondary for them.
Some baseball players have a set position, while others will need to show versatility so they can stay on the field. The more positions a player can play professionally, the better off they will be long-term.
4. Making The Show
The road to becoming a professional baseball player at the highest level is a long one that requires a lot of work just to get there. Baseball players drafted don’t go directly to the MLB, as they need to have further training before they’re ready.
Even the #1 overall pick in a draft will start a career in a minor league city where they are busing from game to game. The weekly salary is less than what someone would make working full-time at a fast food restaurant. Top players do get a signing bonus that helps quite a bit, but those who are drafted high can struggle to make ends meet financially until they make it.
Only those who make it to the Majors start to make a good amount of money. It’s a grind that eats some players up, as they are unable to put in so much work without pay. Not only does the Minor League system get people ready for the Majors, but they get them ready for handling life in general.
5. Arm Strain
Baseball players have a flurry of arm issues every single year. Most pitchers go through some type of pain, but position players are dealing with arm issues as well. This is all attributed to the unnatural motion of throwing a baseball overhand.
Do as much training as possible, and there will still be a lot of soreness after throwing. There’s a reason why pitchers have to take a few days off if they are a starter. There’s no way to condition the body to throw daily while completing multiple innings.
The unfortunate thing about baseball is that arm issues can pop up seemingly out of nowhere. It’s almost routine for pitchers to have Tommy John surgery at some point in their career. Even position players deal with elbow or shoulder issues that sometimes require surgery.
Medical staffs have all the resources necessary to keep players as healthy as possible with their arms. The challenging thing is that in some cases, it can only get better by resting. No amount of medical work can allow a pitcher to throw one day after throwing 100 pitches or more.
6. Handling All Conditions
Weather conditions in baseball can change throughout the year. In a typical year, players will need to find ways to find success in cold temperatures with snow, as well as 100° weather in the middle of the day.
The MLB season lasts six months, with an additional month of playoffs. A player who can only perform in certain weather will be a liability to a team later on.
Any outdoor sport has to deal with adverse weather conditions, but most seasons don’t range as long as baseball. This puts a lot of players in a unique situation, especially when so much of the game relies on feel. In colder games, in particular, it can be very difficult to have sufficient feeling in the hands on the mound or at the plate.
7. Handling a True Hard Ball
A baseball is a hard ball to play with compared to a lot of sports out there. Couple that was moving at a high speed, and there are a lot of people who would have trouble keeping up with baseball at a high level.
Get hit with a baseball, and it’s going to hurt. Get hurt in the wrong area, and a player could miss quite a few games because of an injury. The ball can be thrown hard, but it reaches its fastest speeds off of a well-hit ball.
Many players who’ve been with baseball for their entire life don’t see the speed of the ball as too much of a challenge. However, all it takes is one weird bounce in the infield that goes off the face to realize just how challenging the sport can be at times.
8. Surviving a Marathon Season
At every level, baseball is a sport that is played on nearly a daily basis. Little League seasons last all summer long, and college baseball teams can get in 60 games or more in a short window. At the MLB level, they’ve stuck to the 162-game schedule for over 60 years.
While baseball might not be tiring on a single-game basis, the monthly grind does become tiring. Players don’t have any downtime to recover from injuries that start a nag. If a player tries to play through an injury, their numbers can dip and they might lose their spot.
Body maintenance is very important at the highest levels of baseball. Availability matters, so players can’t be throwing their bodies around and being reckless. There’s a lot of soreness that goes along with baseball, and dealing with it with a routine makes sense.
9. Different Types of Athleticism
Being an athlete can mean different things. Some baseball haters believe that baseball players are not athletes. They don’t have to run and jump as they do in football, basketball, and soccer, but the skill-based nature of the sport still provides plenty of chances for athleticism.
Every position requires a different type of athleticism to excel. Opposition players hit, but the body type of a catcher will be a lot different than the body type of a centerfielder. Being able to do it all on the field is a lot for an athlete to handle.
Does Baseball Receive the Respect It Deserves Being a Hard Sport?
Throughout history, most people have appreciated the difficulty of playing baseball at the highest level. Only more recently have people dismissed the game a bit. Maybe it’s because other sports are becoming more and more popular, while baseball is staying relatively stagnant.
If baseball was easy to figure out, more people would be seeking out ways to reach the highest level. The fact is, it’s still incredibly difficult to even make the Majors. To have a Hall of Fame career is virtually impossible.
The game can be very humbling, and those who played it for an extensive amount of time usually rank it among the hardest out there. Other sports also provide adequate challenges, but there’s something about baseball that makes it a little more unique than the rest.