Batting practice can be an intense nose to the grind hour, and it can be a laid back and fun filled way to end a practice. The mood is depicted by any number of things from the time of year to how hard players have worked during the rest of practice. In either situation, guys tend to take a few swings to work on situational hitting (hit and run, sacrifice fly). It is also baseball nature to try to hit a home run or two, especially for guys who normally aren’t used to trotting around the bases.
Although it seems relatively unimportant, batting practice is a vital part to team chemistry and development. While one hitter is in the cage at a time, there is so much more going on around the field. Other hitters stand around the cage and watch and take notes. Infielders are at their positions taking ground balls hit by coaches or pitchers. (Pitchers can be pretty good or VERY BAD at hitting fungos.) Outfielders shag fly balls from the hitter to work on live situations.
Pitchers stand around the outfield and retrieve most of the balls hit. They also do the most talking since they are shagging baseballs the entire time. Coaches can be anywhere on the field doing instruction or simply chatting with players, coaches, or fans. No matter where a given person is on the field, everybody needs to be watching the hitter during batting practice as a ball can go anywhere at any time.
One batting practice session my sophomore year in college, something of a legend occurred during batting practice. Everybody was doing as they normally were – shagging balls, fielding grounders, waiting to hit. My buddy was a left-handed first baseman with raw power and stepped in to take a round of pitches. What happened next should have been captured on video since it is something that was reminiscent of seeing a comet. You are lucky to see one in your lifetime.
He took a swing and pulled a pitch to right field that looked like it had a chance to get over the fence. At a small Division II school, there are few true home run hitters so most balls that have a chance to go out are watched a little more closely. This particular ball was a line drive, one that would have ricocheted 20 feet off of the wall if it didn’t go over. Batting practice usually has its fair share of home runs. What happened instead was that the ball went right through the wall. Even more impressive than shattering a window.
Guys at home plate thought he hit a home run. Those in the outfield were starring in shock at the wall. It took a few seconds for guys to squint and see just where the ball had hit, leaving a small hole right in the top half of the wooden wall in the outfield.
My buddy called it a day hitting after that shot and rightfully so. Hitting a home run is one thing, but putting a ball right through the wall is completely different and if not way more impressive. It would be a ground rule double in a real game, but that hit was worth much more than two bases. The Paul Bunyan and goliath comments started coming along with some steroid jokes.
The wall might have been made of wood, but there are very few wooden walls that are old enough and left standing long enough to expect a ball to be able to be hit through it. Unlike a comet, you don’t know when something like a ball being put through a wall will happen in advance, and it’s one of those things that are all anyone who saw it will talk about for a week.
The batting practice legend was created. Everyone on the team talked about it for 24 hours and then again during the next home game when there was still a hole in the wall that was now worth a hundred dollars to anyone that managed to hit a ball through the hole. It never happened, and the wall was fixed soon after, so the only evidence that the hole in the wall ever happened is from the memories of those who saw it happen. The same way tall tales and legends are created.