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How to play Canadian baseball

Our neighbors to the north have slightly different rules for baseball, and they'll be on full display over the next few games of the ALCS.

Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Even though the country is our upstairs neighbor, Canada does a lot of things differently. They put their police on horseback, the queen on their money, and gravy on their fries. Their football fields are 10 yards longer, presumably because 100 is too round of a number.

And to be honest, some of the things that Canada does differently aren't too bad. But be prepared for some culture shock if you're planning to watch the Royals continue the ALCS in Toronto over the next few days.

Because baseball is a game where nobody plays by the same rules — you can hit a home run in Tampa Bay by just aiming really, really high, for example — it's not a surprise that Canadian baseball is a lot different from American baseball.  And much like games in AL parks feature the designated hitter, games in Toronto follow all the rules of Canadian baseball.

You may be confused by some of the things you see when watching the Royals and Blue Jays play Canadian baseball over the next three games, so this guide is intended to help you understand the quirks of Canada's America's pastime.


No one knows for sure when Canadians started baseball; the best guess is that it developed somewhere in the wilderness of northern Manitoba around the same time that American baseball was gaining a foothold in the United States.

The one thing every Canadian can remember is playing pick-up games in their childhood. Like most sports in the Great White North, Canadian baseball is meant to be played on ice, so children flock to local ponds in the winter, much like American children flock to sandlots or prestigious baseball academies.

Around this time of year, you can still find Canadians playing baseball on ice, but due to safety concerns, Major League Baseball prevents the Blue Jays from playing on their natural surface. Instead, the team plays on turf, which causes slightly fewer injuries and makes baseball slightly less fun.

Canada has its own professional baseball league, which is comprised of nine teams. Four of them are known as the "Rough Riders," or some variation thereof. No sports reporter has covered one of their games since 1997, when a cub reporter took a wrong turn heading to an Expos game and ended up covering the Montreal Rough Riders instead.

The Expos themselves were a part of MLB until the team was relocated to Washington, D.C. Since the relocation, undercover operatives from the commissioner's office have been hunting down former Expos players and staff in an effort to wipe the team from baseball history. However, no one has yet been able to eliminate Bartolo Colon because he's so gosh-darn lovable.


Most of the rules in Canadian baseball are the same as American baseball, but there are a few key differences.

The playing surface: We've already discussed how Canadian baseball is supposed to be played on ice, but there are a few changes you'll notice at the Rogers Centre. Instead of netting behind home plate and fences in the outfield, the entirety of the field is surrounded by glass boards. Any player who hits a foul ball outside of the boards receives a two-minute delay of game penalty and must sit in the penalty box.

Equipment: Canadian baseball bats have a hook at the end, forming a slight ‘L' shape. The bats are thinner than the American style, and most players tape them to prolong their lifespan.

Catchers have a slightly wider bat that they can use to prevent pitches from getting past them. In addition, most catchers get their masks painted with extravagant artwork.

Timekeeping: Each game is divided into three "periods" of three innings each. If the game is still tied after three periods, the teams move on to another period of sudden death, 3-on-3 overtime. If still tied, the winner is decided by a bat-flipping contest.

Substitutions: Free substitutions are legal, and teams will often make wholesale changes while in the field as one set of players becomes tired.

Contact: Full contact, including devastating body checks, are completely legal in Canada. This explains a lot about Brett Lawrie.

Offsides: There's an offsides rule in Canadian baseball, but nobody can understand it or explain it.

Scoring: Scoring works exactly the same as in American baseball, except that a solo home run is known as a "rouge."

The fans

Canadians are often stereotyped as being exceedingly polite. Well, in this case, it's absolutely true! Canadian fans are second to none in terms of their respect for their opponents and the game.

We've learned over the past couple years that postseason baseball can get pretty wild. Beginning tomorrow, prepare for the games to get even wilder, as the Blue Jays go back to their roots to play some good ol'-fashioned Canadian baseball.