Due to unplayable field conditions at times, on-field batting practice (BP) will be replaced by rounds of hitting in the batting cage. The cancellation of on-field BP is truly a blessing to every pitcher on the team. Enough rain during the day to cancel BP while not affecting the scheduled game later is like some omnipotent Baseball God reaching down from the clouds and commanding in a deep voice: thou pitchers shall not shag today.
Shagging fly balls during batting practice is one of the worst deals about being a pitcher.
While hitters get loose before a game and stroke missiles to the outfield, out of play, and over the fence, pitchers must mindlessly collect the baseballs and funnel them into a bucket. The balls are then returned to the coach or player throwing batting practice. Any opportunity to get out of these duties is taken full advantage of.
So what do the pitchers do while the hitters are preparing for the game inside the batting cage? Last week, before the Indians’ home game against Regina, Fungo Golf was the activity of choice. Fungo Golf is a game played by several individuals where much of the rules of golf apply. However, instead of clubs and golf balls, a baseball and a fungo are used. A fungo is a long, skinny bat used specifically for hitting ground balls.
The light weight frame allows for increased bat speed. Holes are usually objects that must be struck and range from signs on the outfield fence to Gatorade jugs in the dugout.
Fungo Golf is not an easy sport. While trying to hit the ball with great force, unco-ordinated pitchers often miss or hit weak dribblers that come to a halt less than 20 feet in front of them. Even when getting close to the hole, things can be difficult. Putting and trying to approach the hold delicately always proves to be a frustrating part of the game. Many fungos have been hurled in disgust and anger.
The most difficult hole played last week was a
par 5 that started on Mitchell Field and made its way to the back door of the Swift Current iplex.
A daunting task of focus and endurance, several balls went astray in the parking lot.
Although Fungo Golf will never become a real sport, it definitely beats wandering through the bushes beyond the right field fence as homeruns from Aaron Dunsmore whiz by your head.
(Alex Tufts is a pitcher with Swift Current Indians of the Western Major Baseball League. His column will run every week during baseball season.)