First things first. Let’s define an underused word in baseball and softball circles. That word is……… FUNGO. Here is the definition from the following source:
n. pl. fun·goes Baseball A fly ball hit for fielding practice by a player who tosses the ball up and hits it on its way down with a long, thin, light bat.
Fungo bats are usually 36 or 37 inches long. Due their thinner, lighter design, they are a very versatile tool for any coach. It is so much easier to hit hundreds of grounders and fly balls with a fungo than with a regular bat. As well, with the prices of today’s top end bats, a $35 fungo makes more sense. Don’t dent the $350 war clubs in your bat bag.
They can either be wood or aluminum. I encourage you to use a wood one. If not, I will make fun of you like I do my good friend Bill Booker at LaSalle-Peru H.S. for using his aluminum one. If you choose the wood fungo, I would recommend taping the barrel. If you hit a good number of fungoes, the tape will increase the durability of the bat. I took the tape off of one once. The barrell was like sawdust, but I re-taped it and it was ready to go. One season, I figured it out, between the high school, American Legion, an junior high seasons I had hit over 10,000 fungoes. Tape it up!
Below, you’ll see two fungo bats in comparison to a regular baseball bat.
Alright, let’s get to the drill. “Fungo Baseball/Softball” is a great drill for fielding and base running. It’s the same as playing an inter-squad scrimmage, except the pitchers do not throw live, and the hitters toss the ball to themselves and hit fungoes where they want. It is set up as a competitive game with an endless amount of teaching points. I really like to do this drill early in the season in order to simulate some real game like situations, and also when you’re on a hot streak and you’re looking to keep your team sharp on the little things like relays, backing up, and communication.
Here’s the set up:
- Break your team up into 2 or 3 teams. If you do 2 teams you’ll need 8 or 9 on a team with a player for each defensive position. If you only have 8 on a team you can eliminate either the pitcher, catcher, or one outfielder based on what is a priority for your team that day. If you only have 12-15 players on your team break it up into 3 teams of 4-5. Then place two of the teams on defense and one team hitting fungoes. No matter what, have the teams and batting orders pre-made before practice. This will eliminate unnecessary downtime during practice.
- The game can last as long as you want. I recommend no longer than 45 min.
- You play 3 out half innings, just like a real game.
- Each inning can start differently in order to add a twist. I would encourage you to script it. For example:
- 1st inning- nobody on base
- 2nd inning- runner on first
- 3rd inning- bases loaded
- 4th inning- ????? whatever you want, be creative!
- A swing and a miss = out (you’ll be surprised how many of these you’ll see)
- Home run= out
- Foul ball= out (rules 1,2, & 3 are there to encourage work for your defense & no wasted time)
- All other outs are accumulated according to regular rules.
- Base runners are limited to a one step lead or no lead at all.
- No bunts. Full swings only.
- No stealing.
- Pitcher must simulate a pitch to start the action, only then can the hitter swing.
- In the case that an outfielder catches a fly ball in foul territory it shall count as 2 outs for the offense.
- All defensive players must perform a pre-pitch walk-in or “creep step” with the pitchers motion.
As I had previously mentioned, the amount of teaching points is limitless. The length of the game will really depend on how often you stop the action in order to discuss points related to base running, backing up throws, fielding techniques, and etc. If you have assistant coaches, have them distributed throughout the field in order to help with certain teaching points on the spot, thus eliminating full stoppages of the game. Now get out there and start putting the “FUN” back into fungo. I know that’s pretty corny, but I couldn’t help myself 🙂
If you have any comments, suggestions, or additions to this post, please feel free to comment.
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