In baseball, this pertains to the action of fielding a batted ball. Such fielding is usually clean or almost clean. However, instead of making a throw to a base to retire a runner, the fielder holds onto the ball.
Why Fielders Eat the Ball
The fielder will usually eat the ball because the fielder believes there is little to no chance of retiring the runner. Hence, they would instead allow the runner to reach one base without any challenges rather than risking the commission of an error resulting in an unearned run. If the risk happens, the runner will have to advance towards different bases due to the offensive team’s error.
The fielder will hold on to the live ball, so the defensive team can get a chance to win the game later, even if the offensive team advances earlier in the game.
How to Eat the Ball
When eating the ball, a fielder is about to make ill advice to the other fielders. The ball in question is one that has just been hit and is in play. The fielders’ goal is to make an out, so they will yell “eat it” to the fielder who has the ball and hold onto it instead of throwing it to another fielder. With this technique, they try to minimize the offensive damage.
Another Meaning of Eat the Ball
Another meaning of eating the ball in baseball is when a pitch is done aggressively by throwing strikes. The pitcher is not trying to trick the hitters into swinging at the pitches that get thrown out of the strike zone. The other terms for such an act by the pitcher are to pound the strike zone and challenge the hitters.
Another Strategy Used by Fielders
Another strategy that fielders use so they can trick the offensive team is the hidden ball trick. Here, a player gets deceived about the location of the ball to tag out the runner. When the defensive team hides the ball, they can only do so by holding it under their arm to make it look like their glove is empty. However, it is not legal if the ball gets placed inside their pocket.