Insights for Expats: Baseball Business Idioms Explained

The new baseball season is upon us! As the national pastime thrills fans through the spring and summer, many of the terms used by sportscasters and players will also enter the boardroom. So many baseball terms have been adopted in our business lexicon, it’s worth pointing out a few for our expat colleagues:


Covering all the bases: Precautions/plans for every contingency

To make our sales plan effective we need to cover all the bases.

In baseball: having a player responsible for each base on the field


Curveball : An unexpected event

I thought we had the deal done but then he threw me a curveball.

In baseball: a pitch that suddenly changes direction/curves


Get to first base: To reach to the first milestone; finish the first step

Our plan is aggressive, but if we can get to first base, we will be on the way to winning.

In baseball: a hit that gets the batter to first base


Have two strikes against you: to be in a difficult situation

After the last failure, we need a solid campaign in place before the trade show or we’ll have two strikes against us.

In baseball: a batter who gets three strikes is out so he’s under pressure when he’s batting with two strikes already against him.


Hit a home run: a big success

We were confident of a win but we didn’t expect a home run

In baseball: the batter hits the ball out of the ballpark and circles the bases, driving anyone on base ahead of him to score runs.


Keep one’s eye on the ball: To focus on the task; remain alert

He met with some project obstacles but kept his eye on the ball and completed on time.

In baseball: advice to a batter to improve the chances for a hit.


Pinch-hit: To substitute for someone.

She was out of town so her assistant pinch hit for her in the board presentation

In baseball: to bat in the place of another, scheduled player.


Ballpark figure/number: A rough estimate

I need a ballpark figure to give the VP for how much the marketing campaign is going to cost us. Don’t spend too much time on it – just need an estimate.

In baseball: this one is trickier to explain but could refer to the fact that baseballs can land almost anywhere in the ballpark