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Baseball Terminology: In the Hole

If you’re an avid baseball fan then you’re probably well-versed in all the crazy terminology surrounding baseball. One of the more common baseball terms that will get thrown around is the phrase “in the hole”.

If you hear the term “in the hole” then you’ll also have to understand the situation in which it’s being used because there are multiple definitions for “in the hole” in baseball. What does “in the hole” mean in baseball?

In baseball, “in the hole” typically refers to the third batter up, regardless of the situation of the game. The next player to hit is called the “on-deck” batter while the player after that is said to be “in the hole”.

Yankees player walking up to the batter's box at Yankee Stadium

However, being “in the hole” in baseball has 3 different meanings:

  • The batter who comes after the on-deck batter
  • The area on the field between the shortstop and third baseman or between the first baseman and the second baseman
  • Another name for an unfavorable count for either the pitcher or the hitter

Using this baseball term varies from situation to situation. Let’s take a few minutes to focus on each of these definitions and examine the different scenarios in which this term is used.

There Are Three Definitions For the Term “In the Hole”

1) The Batter Who Comes After the On-Deck Batter

This situation is probably the most common usage of the term “in the hole” and is used to describe where exactly a team is in the batting order.

In any scenario, there will always be three types of batters: the batter who is currently batting (at-bat), the batter who is up next and in the on-deck circle (on-deck), and the batter who comes directly after the on-deck batter (in the hole).

The batter is said to be “in the hole” because they are the next up and in the dugout, which is typically down further in the ground than the actual field.

2) “In the Hole” is an Area on the Field

There are two areas on the field that can be considered “in the hole”:

  • The area between the third baseman and the shortstop
  • The area between the second baseman and the first baseman

The more common of these two “in-the-hole” areas on the field would be the area between the third baseman and the shortstop. If you watch baseball on TV then there’s no doubt you’ve heard an announcer exclaim that the shortstop made a tremendous play from the hole.

Plays that are in the hole and made by the shortstop are also the plays that you tend to see on the top 10 plays of the day.

This is because the shortstop has to run a pretty good distance from the ball while heading in the opposite direction of first base, and then have the arm strength to make the throw from the hole all the way to first base.

Once you see this play in action it’s easy to see why these types of plays easily make the top 10 plays for the day.

For a great example of a play from deep in the hole, check out Derek Jeter’s play from the 1998 American League Championship Series.

3) An Unfavorable Count for Either the Pitcher or the Hitter Means “In the Hole”

Depending upon the scenario, the term “in the hole” can be either in your favor or in opposition to you depending on your count as the batter.

If you have two strikes on you and the count is 0-2, then you are said to be “in the hole” as a hitter. This is not the ideal scenario to find yourself in as a hitter.

On the other hand, if the pitcher has thrown three balls in a row and the count is 3-0, then the pitcher is said to be “in the hole” with the count.

Being the batter in a 3-0 count is the best place to be in – you can either walk on another bad pitch, take a strike that is not the exact pitch you like, or swing away at a pitch that is in your zone.

However, it’s not always a good thing to swing on a 3-0 count. Learn more about when to swing on a 3-0 count.

“On Deck” vs “In The Hole”

“On deck” and “in the hole” are both terms used to describe the inside of a ship, but the words are not self-explanatory when using them to describe batters. What’s the difference between on deck and in the hole?

“On deck” refers to the player who is batting next. “In the hole” refers to the player who bats after the “on deck” batter. Both of these terms can be used at any point in the game to describe when a player should be preparing to bat.

On deck and in the hole are probably the most used terms during a baseball game.

I mainly hear these terms get thrown around when our team recorded the 3rd out on defense and we are discussing where we are at in the batting order.

But a lot of the time, players forget exactly where they fall in the lineup. It’s helpful to let that player know they are in the hole or on deck because these terms both imply the player should be getting ready to hit and how quickly they should be getting ready.

Is it “In the Hold” or “In the Hole”?

This is a common question among players who are just becoming familiar with baseball terminology. Are players saying that a batter is in the hold or in the hole?

Between the phrases “in the hold” and “in the hole”, the correct phrase is “in the hole”. This phrase typically refers to a batter who comes directly after the on-deck batter.

According to Cut4 by MLB.com, this phrase originally started off as “in the hold” and was later changed to “in the hole”. Both of the names for the next two batters in the lineup come from words to describe the inside of a ship.

“On deck” refers to the main area of the ship, therefore the next batter up is also called “on deck”. “In the hold” refers to a holding place below deck, therefore the batter that came after the “on deck” player was originally called “in the hold”.

It wasn’t until sometime later that the phrase “in the hold” became “in the hole”, but no one is quite sure when the switch was made. The article from Cut4 points to WWII being about the time the switch was made to “in the hole”.

What Comes After In the Hole in Baseball?

While writing the above content for this article I started wondering if all batters had some type of nickname for where they were in the batting order.

If “on deck” and “in the hole” are used to describe the next two batters in the batting order, then maybe the batter who came after the “in the hole” hitter also had some type of nickname from the inside of a ship?

Alas, after scouring the internet, searching through dozens of articles, and asking a close friend who is a baseball coach, I was unable to find a term to describe what comes after “in the hole” in the batting order.

Unfortunately, there is no official term to describe what comes after “in the hole” in baseball.

Needless to say, this was a disappointing find. Personally, I was looking forward to finding this seemingly-rare term, but it turns out that whoever invented these terms did not go beyond the next three batters in the lineup.

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Steve Nelson

I'm the owner of Baseball Training World. I live in Denver, Colorado and I enjoy playing baseball in an adult baseball team in the surrounding area. Read more about Steve Nelson.

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