Shagging (baseball)

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In baseball, shagging is the act of catching fly balls in the outfield outside the context of an actual baseball game.[1] This is most commonly done by pitchers during batting practice before a game,[2] where they assist their hitting teammates by catching or picking up their batted baseballs and throwing them back to the pitching area in the infield. Batboys also help shagging baseballs, and it is reportedly considered a great honor among batboys to be asked to do this.[3] This pre-game activity is widely disliked by pitchers,[4][5] who argue that it does not benefit them at all, since it drains their energy[5] and actually increases the risk of stiffness in the lower back and leg as a result of prolonged standing.[6] In response to these claims, several teams have exempted pitchers from having to shag fly balls. In the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) league, teams pay groups specifically assembled to shag fly balls in place of pitchers,[5] and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim recruit local firefighters in Arizona to do the job when the team plays in the Cactus League during spring training.[6]

Dangers[edit]

A right-handed Hispanic baseball pitcher, wearing a grey uniform with the lettering "NEW YORK" across it, with his body facing the right as he prepares to throw a baseball.
All-time saves leader Mariano Rivera suffered a season-ending injury in 2012 while shagging a fly ball at Kauffman Stadium.

Although shagging baseballs is not considered to be dangerous,[7][8] several freak injuries have occurred as a result of engaging in it. In 1943, just one season after collecting his 3,000 hit, Paul Waner accidentally gashed his foot while shagging a fly ball in a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, his former team.[9] This was probably due to the fact that Waner was nearsighted and his refusal to wear glasses;[10] thus, he "played the outfield by ear."[9] Nearly four decades later, Jerry Reuss was handed the honor of pitching on Opening Day in 1981, but suffered an injury to his calf while shagging baseballs for his teammates. He was replaced by unheralded rookie Fernando Valenzuela, who went on to win his next 8 consecutive decisions.[11]

Other players who have suffered serious injuries due to shagging baseballs include Mark Fidrych and Brendan Donnelly. Fidrych suffered a left knee injury after tearing cartilage in 1977 spring training,[12] starting a downward spiral in his career.[13] Donnelly ended up breaking his nose while shagging baseballs, resulting in him losing half of his blood and necessitating three operations.[14]

Mariano Rivera, the all-time leader in saves, suffered arguably the most well-known injury from shagging baseballs on May 3, 2012. While helping out in pre-game batting practice, Rivera attempted to catch a fly ball from Jayson Nix when he twisted his knee on the warning track of Kauffman Stadium and fell to the ground. An MRI scan revealed he had torn his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and part of his meniscus.[15] This prematurely ended his season[16] and led to fears that this could potentially be a career-ending injury.[15][17] Rivera was able to come back and pitch for the 2013 season, his final season in the major leagues before retiring.[18]

Despite the seriousness of Rivera's injuries, pitchers from across Major League Baseball (MLB) who engaged in shagging fly balls during batting practice said they would not drop the activity or modify their training routine. These included James Shields[19] and J. J. Putz,[20] along with 2012 Cy Young Award winners[21] R.A. Dickey[22] and David Price.[19] Furthermore, several MLB managers at the time—namely Dale Sveum,[23] Joe Maddon,[19] Jim Leyland and Terry Collins[22]—confirmed they would not order their pitchers to stop shagging baseballs.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bernstein, Theodore M.; Wagner, Jane (1976). Bernstein's reverse dictionary. Routledge. p. 15. Retrieved April 19, 2013. 
  2. ^ Debs, Vic (May 1, 2002). That Was Part of Baseball Then: Interviews With 24 Former Major League Baseball Players, Coaches and Managers. McFarland. p. 88. Retrieved April 19, 2013. 
  3. ^ Isaacs, Neil D. (April 1, 1995). Batboys and the World of Baseball. Univ. Press of Mississippi. p. 149. Retrieved April 19, 2013. 
  4. ^ Dorfman, H. A.; Kuehl, Karl (June 1, 2002). The Mental Game Of Baseball: A Guide to Peak Performance. Taylor Trade Publications. p. 171. Retrieved April 19, 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c Lefton, Brad (April 9, 2011). "Randy Messenger continues to pursue baseball career in Japan". The Seattle Times. Retrieved April 19, 2013. 
  6. ^ a b Waldstein, David (August 16, 2012). "Cherished Tradition or a Colossal Waste of Time?". The New York Times. Retrieved April 19, 2013. 
  7. ^ Duber, Vinnie; Kaegel, Dick (May 4, 2012). "Royals don't blame Mo for shagging flies". MLB.com. MLB Advanced Media. Retrieved April 19, 2013. 
  8. ^ Barbarisi, Daniel (May 4, 2012). "Rivera Felled by Pre-Game Pastime: Shagging Flies". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved April 19, 2013. 
  9. ^ a b Small, Collie (May 31, 1943). "Paul Waner Joins Baseball Immortals With 3000th Hit". The Eugene Register-Guard. United Press International. Retrieved April 19, 2013. 
  10. ^ Wancho, Joseph. "Paul Waner". The Baseball Biography Project. Society for American Baseball Research. Retrieved April 19, 2013. 
  11. ^ Collier, Gene (April 9, 2006). "Collier: Fernando was baseball at its best". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved April 19, 2013. 
  12. ^ Lief, Fred (March 31, 1977). "In baseball: 'Bird' caged, Boog axed". The Deseret News. United Press International. Retrieved April 19, 2013. 
  13. ^ "Tigers waive bye-bye to Fidrych". St. Petersburg Times. October 6, 1981. Retrieved April 19, 2013. 
  14. ^ "Baseball". The Union Democrat. Associated Press. June 17, 2004. Retrieved April 19, 2013. 
  15. ^ a b Hoch, Bryan (May 4, 2012). "Mariano tears ACL shagging fly balls". MLB.com. MLB Advanced Media. Retrieved April 19, 2013. 
  16. ^ Hoch, Bryan (February 13, 2013). "Rivera plans to continue shagging fly balls". MLB.com. MLB Advanced Media. Retrieved April 19, 2013. 
  17. ^ Skretta, Dave (May 4, 2012). "Mariano Rivera injury puts future in question". Chicago Sun-Times. Associated Press. Retrieved April 19, 2013. 
  18. ^ Ehalt, Matt (April 5, 2013). "Mariano Rivera returns, earns save". ESPN (ESPN Internet Ventures). Retrieved April 19, 2013. 
  19. ^ a b c Chastain, Bill (May 4, 2012). "Rivera injury won't deter Rays from routine". MLB.com. MLB Advanced Media. Retrieved April 20, 2013. 
  20. ^ Gilbert, Steve (May 4, 2012). "Shagging fly balls part of routine for D-backs". MLB.com. MLB Advanced Media. Retrieved April 20, 2013. 
  21. ^ "Most Valuable Player MVP Awards & Cy Young Awards Winners". Baseball-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved April 20, 2013. 
  22. ^ a b McCarron, Anthony (May 4, 2012). "Despite freak injury to Yankees' Mariano Rivera, NY Mets' R.A. Dickey and others say 'power shagging' is here to stay". New York Daily News. Retrieved April 20, 2013. 
  23. ^ Kruth, Cash (May 4, 2012). "Sveum: No issue with hurlers shagging fly balls". MLB.com. MLB Advanced Media. Retrieved April 20, 2013.