The hypnotic rhythm of fungoes | Bleader

The hypnotic rhythm of fungoes

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The Cubs third baseman Ian Stewart prepares for the throw from David DeJesus in right as part of infield practice Wednesday.
  • Ted Cox
  • Cubs third baseman Ian Stewart prepares for the throw from David DeJesus in right as part of infield practice Wednesday.
The Wrigley Field grounds crew—dressed in street clothes, not the usual blue uniforms they'll sport for Thursday's opening day—rolled away the batting cage just as the Cubs were through stretching and tossing the ball around at the start of Wednesday's final preseason workout. It seems someone—most likely new manager Dale Sveum—decided some infield and outfield practice was called for before hitting.

Fundamentals, what a concept. There really is a new regime in charge—top to bottom—with the Cubs this season.

Infield and outfield practice used to be a regular pregame feature at major-league games, but it's fallen by the wayside for most teams. That's a noteworthy loss, because there's something hypnotic about the rhythms of it. Coaches hit fungoes to outfielders, who throw to each base in turn. Once it gets to the infield, it grows in complexity like a fugue. Infielders throw first to first base on grounders, but then ornate little variations are added, such as a third baseman throwing to second on a grounder for an imaginary double play, with the second baseman throwing to first, who throws it home to the catcher, who throws it to the third baseman now covering third, who then throws it back to first and then home to start the same double-play/cover-your-base routine for the other infielders.

The Cubs looked crisp going through these etudes, ending with short grounders with the infielders each charging and throwing to first and coming on in. Only then did the grounds crew roll back the cage and set up the screen in front of the mound for the pitcher, and batting practice proper began, with that distinctive crack of the bat followed immediately by the lighter pocks of coaches hitting grounders to infielders between pitches.

The season is almost upon us.

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