The on-deck circle is an area in foul territory near both dugouts for the batter to get ready to hit when they come up at the plate. The on-deck circle area typically has baseball donuts, barrels, a weighted baseball bat, batting gloves, and more, and it tends to either have the home team’s logo or some sponsorship on it, which helps it stand out on the field. This area on the diamond allows the on-deck hitter to swing the bat without hitting their teammates since they are the only ones in this area on the field.
So, what is the purpose of the on-deck circle in baseball and softball? Which on-deck circle do teams use during a baseball game? How big is the on-deck circle on a baseball field? Why did it get that name? What do the phrases on-deck, double-deck, and in-the-hole mean in baseball and softball? Finally, what happens if the on-deck circle hitter interferes with a play in foul territory?
Here is the complete breakdown of an on-deck circle in baseball and softball.
What is the Purpose of the On-Deck Circle in Baseball?
The primary purpose of the on-deck circle in baseball and softball is to get the hitter ready for their upcoming at-bat. The on-deck circle area has extra bats, weights, gloves, and more for the hitter to get a few swings in before they come up to bat against the pitcher. Hitters use the weighted bats on the on-deck circle because it makes their actual bat feel lighter when they come to the plate and swing against pitches.
Another purpose of the on-deck circle is to provide a better view of the pitcher for that hitter next in line to bat at home plate. Sitting in the dugout doesn’t give players a good idea of breaking pitches a pitcher throws to batters. However, standing in the designated area close to home plate as the on-deck hitter, they can pick up arm delivery and more with a much clearer angle than sitting in the dugout, which will help them during their upcoming at bat.
Which On-Deck Circle Do Baseball Players Use During a Game?
Teams use the on-deck circle nearest to their dugout during a game. For example, Yankee Stadium has its home on-deck area on the first base side of the field, so the team uses that during their home games. Meanwhile, a venue like Wrigley Field, with its home dugout on the third base side, will use that circle on that side of the field during their games.
No matter what, both teams will have access to an on-deck circle near their dugout for their players to use to get ready.
How Big is the On-Deck Circle in Major League Baseball?
The on-deck circle on an MLB field is 5 feet long and about 37 feet from home plate. The on-deck area is near the steps of the dugout for both the home and away teams, allowing players to walk from the dugout to the warm-up area easily. According to Rule 5.10(k) of MLB, only the next batter up should be in or around the on-deck circle during a game. No other players can be in this area getting ready. However, there may be instances when two players are waiting in this area discussing strategy during a pitching change.
The on-deck batter can stand slightly outside the circle as they warm up, but the umpire can tell them to move if they are too far from the circle on the field. Sometimes, a baseball player might try to stand closer behind the catcher as they warm up to get a better view of a pitcher’s pitches, which will have the umpire tell them to move.
Why is it Called the On Deck Circle?
The phrase “on deck” comes from the mindset of being ready as the next person up when you are on a ship. Essentially, it is the waiting area for someone to prepare to go into action, which is the same in baseball and softball. This circle area is the waiting area for players to enter the action when it is their turn to bat.
What Do On-Deck, Double-Deck, and In-the-Hole Mean in Baseball?
On deck in baseball and softball refers to that player being next to hit at the batter’s box. Double deck means that they are next to bat after the on-deck batter. Finally, in-the-hole means they are third to bat after the double-deck hitter hits.
Managers tend to call out these phrases with the players’ names to signify the batting order taking place that inning. For example, Kristan is on-double deck means that Kristan should start getting their batting helmet on and have their bat in their hands, waiting in the dugout until they can enter the on-deck circle.
Does the Pitch Hitter Get to Use the On Deck Circle?
A pinch hitter can use the on-deck circle to warm up before batting. Sometimes a manager will call upon a pinch hitter as a late call depending on the game situation. If that is the case, the umpire will allow a few practice swings and whatever else that hitter needs to do to get ready before getting into the batter’s box. Usually, a hitter will only take a few practice swings with a weighted bat in the on-deck area and then walk to the plate to hit, so it only takes a little time to get ready.
What Happens if the On-Deck Hitter Interferes with a Fielder on a Play?
While the on-deck hitter is getting ready to hit, they must also be observant of plays and not interfere with any fielder trying to make a catch. For example, if there is a foul ball and the first baseman (or third baseman) is running to make a catch, the on-deck hitter must get out of their way so they can make a play. Failure to get out of the way will result in interference, which means that the batter who hit the foul ball will be out automatically.
Conclusion: What Does the On-Deck Circle Mean in Baseball?
In summary, the on-deck circle is an area near the dugouts in foul territory that allows hitters to take practice swings before getting into the batter’s box. Both teams will have their own on-deck circle, and you will find bat weights, gloves, extra bats, and more for hitters to warm up their muscles before heading to home plate. The area is 5 feet in diameter and less than 40 feet from home plate, which allows the hitter on deck to get a better view of the pitcher and their delivery as they throw the ball.