A baseball bat is a common term that most people know of. It is the piece of aluminum or wood a batter uses to hit a baseball. A lesser known term and type of bat is a fungo bat. This is a longer, thinner, lighter bat that coaches use to hit practice balls with. Coaches typically use fungo bats during batting practice and before games to give players extra repetitions on the field. A player might ask the coach to “hit some fungos.” This means that he wants the coach to hit him some balls with the fungo bat.
Fungo bats are made specifically for practice, as they are not regulated for use in games. Even if they were allowed to be used, they are very long and do not have enough weight to be seriously considered as a viable option for a hitter. Most game bats are 32-34 inches and have a -3 weight drop, meaning they weigh 3 ounces less that the length in inches. A 34-inch bat usually weighs 31 ounces, a 33-inch bat weighs 30 ounces, and so on. For younger age groups there are -7 and -13 weight drops to make bats easier to swing, but at the high school level and up it is -3.
Coaches typically have their own personal fungo bats just like players have their own bats for games. They customize them with colors, engraving names, and have tape jobs just like other bats. The only difference is that you won’t see these fungo bats used in the game. You have to get to the field pretty early to see anybody using them.
You might see players using fungo bats on the field for tricks though. Fungo bats bounce off the ground a little easier than regular bats. What does this mean? It means players do tricks such as bouncing the bat forwards and backwards, sideways, behind the back, and any other crazy creative way they come up with. It is entertaining watching a guy try to do a new trick and celebrate when they finally pull it off. Regular bats could be used, but fungo bats are the preference when showing off for fellow players and fans.
A favorite game of mine I played in college was fungo golf. This involved 2 to 4 guys each with a baseball and a fungo bat. Golf scoring and rules are used. Starting at home plate, you pick a target far away to be the hole. Then one at a time each player tosses his ball into the air to hit it with the fungo towards the hole. After everyone has shot, you go to your ball and hit your next shot. This repeats until everyone has hit the target or holed their ball. The next hole is chosen and you repeat for usually 9 holes. Only fungo bats are allowed; hence the name fungo golf. This video shows the fundamentals of fungo golf at its finest.
A fungo bat is hard to find in stores. Usually you have to order them online or through a catalog. Now, if you ever see a long skinny bat that no one is using during the game, you’ll know what kind of bat it is, who uses it, and what other purposes it serves besides its actual usage by coaches.