Baseball Training with a Fungo Bat
February 26 2017 / By:
Among the many different types of bats that have seen renewed popularity in training for baseball play, the fungo bat has been resurrected from the dusty annals of baseball practice to once again help develop solid players. Regular practicing with a fungo bat can do a lot to improve play, and it's a technique that has fall to the wayside in many amateur leagues. Fungo practice can really give a team an extra edge during actual game play.
There are many theories on where the name fungo came from, but general lore is that it's a marriage of the words “fun” and “go”. Alternatively, the bat name may be based on the Scottish verb “fung,” which means “ “to pitch, toss, or fling.” Another explanation for the name is that the word comes from “fun goes,” referring to the warm-up swings before a game. Whatever the origins, the use of the name goes back as far as 1886.
The fungo bat is basically a chopped down practice bat that has seen a resurgence in use as interest has been resparked in vintage baseball leagues and specialty bats that were used in decades past. During the early development of the baseball bat, players experimented with many shapes and sizes as they refined their game. Described as a cross between a bat and a broomstick, the fungo bat is a lighter, slimmer, longer bat than a regulation bat, with a slimmer barrel. It is about 33 - 36 inches long and weighs 22 to 26 ounces.
Origins aside, the recommendations for using the fungo bat is that it's for specific batting practice, namely field placement, and should be a part of an overall practice and coaching plan. The fungo bat is specially designed to hit balls that are tossed into the air by the batter, rather than pitched balls. This allows many balls to be hit during field practice. The bat can help players to develop accurate placement in the field and, as such, it is often a popular training bat for coaches to create spot-on throws and tags.
Coaches normally use fungo bats to hit ground balls and pop flies to fielders during practice. The weight and length of the bat allow repeated balls to be hit and placed in the field by the coach with great accuracy. The bat's small diameter also makes it easier to hit pop-ups and ground balls to catchers and infielders because the barrel of the bat allows more control.
A couple of drills are especially helpful in training with the fungo bat:
- Scoops at First: The coach stands in relation to where the fielders will be throwing the ball to first base. The fungo hitter stands in the infield, about 40 - 50 feet away from first base and in the throw line from the third baseman. The first baseman sets his feet as if readying to throw, and the fungo hitter sends a grounder or line drive his way. The first baseman will go after the batted ball by scooping or blocking the throw. The coach can move around the infield to let the first baseman work from every angle, including standing at second base to imitate a double-play throw.
- Plays at the Plate: In this drill, the catcher fields batted balls from the coach at the plate. During actual game play, any of a wide variety of balls could come at the catcher, who must then tag the hitter/runner. These balls include short hops, in-between hops, balls thrown to left and right of the plate, and high balls. The coach should stand throughout the infield, and the catcher should catch the fungo batted ball just as he could in actual game play, including catching and tagging. Catchers should wear full safety equipment during this drill.
These are just a couple of fungo bat drills that coaches can employ. Others include hitting the ball to second and third base to imitate poorly thrown balls from the catcher during base steals, as well as pick-off throws to first base from the catcher.
Coaches should bat fungo balls with two hands and use batting gloves (even two pairs, if needed) to protect hands from the many balls that need to be hit to players during practice. Soaking hands in Epsom salts at night can ease stiffness.
Because fungo bats are longer and thinner, they can break more easily, so it's important to protect the fungo bat by taping it. The taping will prolong the lifespan of the fungo bat, which is prone to splitting at the wood grains. You can tape the bat at the fat end by starting about an inch above the bat logo. Wrap carefully around the bat, keeping tape taut and moving the tape toward the end of the bat. If one layer is higher than the previous, you can just unwind, cut the tape, and restart the wrap. Creases and bumps in the taping will make weak spots in the bat and affect how the ball comes off the bat. Once you have taped to almost the end of the bat, go back and retape with a layer going in the same downward direction. Start at the same place as the previous layer or slightly higher. Two to three layers of tape will protect the bat and prevent splitting during practice. Any tape is suitable for use in taping a fungo bat, but athletic tape is the most common kind of tape used.
A wide variety of fungo/training bats are available from X Bats, for players of all ages. There are three types of coaches fungoes in 33”, 34” 35”, and 36” and regular, extended barrel, and a special Fungo 73 with a large, flared knob for comfort and balance. There is also a LOG for overload training, a Short Barrel Training bat, similar to a fungo, for underload training to develop bat speed, and a special flat sided bat to encourage proper backspin and hand positioning on the bat. In addition, two types of Shorty bats are used for one hand drills for both strength and coordination.