Baseball is a bat-and-ball game played between two teams of nine players each who take turns batting and fielding. The offense attempts to score runs by hitting a ball thrown by the pitcher with a bat and moving counter-clockwise around a series of four bases: first, second, third, and home plate.
A run is scored when a player advances around the bases and returns to home plate. Players on the batting team take turns hitting against the pitcher of the fielding team, which tries to prevent runs by getting hitters out in any of several ways. A player on the batting team who reaches a base safely can later attempt to advance to subsequent bases during teammates' turns batting, such as on a hit or by other means. The teams switch between batting and fielding whenever the fielding team records three outs. One turn batting for both teams, beginning with the visiting team, constitutes an inning. A game comprises nine innings, and the team with the greater number of runs at the end of the game wins. Evolving from older bat-and-ball games, an early form of baseball was being played in England by the mid-18th century. This game was brought by immigrants to North America, where the modern version developed. By the late 19th century, baseball was widely recognized as the national sport of the United States. Baseball is now popular in North America and parts of Central and South America and the Caribbean, East Asia, and Europe. In the United States and Canada, professional Major League Baseball (MLB) teams are divided into the National League (NL) and American League (AL), each with three divisions: East, West, and Central. The major league champion is determined by playoffs that culminate in the World Series. The top level of play is similarly split in Japan between the Central League and Pacific Leagues and in Cuba between the West League and East League.