Why Do We Say “Right Off The Bat”?

Earlier this month I discussed about how I write my goals for the year in crayon. In the post I said:

Right off the bat, the goals are energizing. The fresh-start effect motivates us from January 1st until about January 10th. We hit the gym, stick to our budget and all is golden.

As soon as I wrote that I started thinking about the phrase “right off the bat.” Where did that come from? Is it referring to bat the animal or the baseball?

Let’s find out in today’s edition of Wonder Why Wednesday…

Why Do We Say “Right Off The Bat”?

When we do something right off the bat, we do it without delay. Our response is immediate.

KnowYourPhrase.com explains that the saying can be attributed to baseball. When the bat strikes the ball, the ball is now in play and the team in the field must react. So, the fielders are forced to make a quick decision when a ball is hit…wait for it…right off the bat.

The phrase can be traced back to around the 1880s. In 1883, an example from the Albion New Era newspaper is talking about baseball when it says:

A person unused to it would net catch one ‘fly’ out of fifty, and as for stopping and holding a hot liner right off the bat, he might as well attempt to gather in a solid shot fired point blank from a Parrot gun.”

It appears that the phrase quickly spread outside of baseball, as evidence by an 1888 article from the Biddeford Journal which states:

Let me hear that kid use slang again, and I’ll give it to him right off the bat. I’ll wipe up the floor with him.”