Unless you've managed to ditch P.E. every day of your entire scholastic career, the title should leave no doubt that this poem is about baseball. (For you less sports-inclined Shmoopers out there, "at the bat" gives it away. If these references are unfamiliar, don't panic. Shmoop is here to translate all the sports talk for you.)
The poem's epigraph announces in no uncertain terms that this is a ballad, something that might traditionally be sung. (Check out more on ballads over in "Form and Meter.")
It also establishes a time frame for the poem. That reference to "1888" helps us picture the scene as the writer intended. No Nike swooshes or giant high tech ball gloves here, folks. We should be picturing old-school baseball all the way.
We should also be thinking about the "Battle Hymn of the Republic", with that reference to the "republic." Which republic? That would be the good ol' U.S. of A. Right from the get-go, we are told that this poem is directed at, and quite possibly about, America as a nation.
Now, what's happening with that game? Let's read on to find out…