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At all levels of baseball, from Little League to the Major Leagues, warning signs are posted (usually at or somewhere near home plate) around baseball stadiums all over the world reading “NO PEPPER”.
Have you ever wondered what this two-word phrase means? No, it is NOT referring to the favorite condiment you may be adding to your baseball game snacks from the concession stand (LOL)! We will answer this question and provide more information about the game of PEPPER below so please keep reading.
Pepper is both a pre-game exercise and a competitive game that fellow baseball players often engage in before practices or regular season games. The sign “NO PEPPER” means that this game is NOT allowed to be played at that particular ballpark.
What is PEPPER?
Pepper is an immensely popular game across all levels of baseball. It is utilized by players that simply want to “warm-up” before a game or practice. Pepper is also used by players, managers, and coaches to increase different skill sets. Many baseball players have played Pepper most of their competitive careers and find the game fun, light-hearted, and amusing.
Some Rules of PEPPER
Here are some of the many rules of the game of Pepper. A batter attempts to hit soft ground balls to a group of fielders who only stand about twenty feet away. The fielders field the ground ball and then immediately throw a pitch back to the hitter for him or her to swing again. If the hitter hits a line drive or a pop-up in the air and a fielder catches it, that fielder gets to become the hitter.
The fielders form a line in order to decide whose turn it is to be the hitter. If a fielder makes an “error” while fielding the ball, he or she must move to the back of the line. If the hitter swings and misses the ball, or hits a foul ball, he or she must move to the back of the line as well.
The hitter is supposed to use an easy swing in order to not injure any of his fellow teammates who are standing so close to him or her.
The Advantages of Playing PEPPER
The competitive advantages of the game of Pepper game are numerous. In fact, many long tenured baseball coaches and managers consider Pepper to be one of the greatest ever defensive drills ever created. Here are some of the benefits of Pepper below:
- The hitters get to develop good hand-eye coordination.
- The hitters are able to get their eyes used to seeing a live pitch coming directly at them.
- Since the ball is being thrown from only around twenty feet away, the hitter’s reaction time is improved. This means that when the real game starts, and the pitcher is a full sixty feet away, the hitter will have an increased chance of making good contact with the pitch.
- The fielders get to improve their overall agility and foot speed when fielding quick ground balls from Pepper.
- The fielders are able to increase their alertness and become more “game-ready”.
- Pepper does NOT require a great deal of space; therefore, it can be played in either the infield or the outfield. This allows for other baseball drills to be completed at other areas of the field.
- Pepper teaches all players the basic fundamentals of the game of baseball which are hitting, throwing, and fielding.
- Pepper can help put all baseball players in the proper mental frame of mind. It can be used as an easy way to pass the anxious hours before a big game.
- The game of Pepper is often a fun, light-hearted way to get warmed up for a game or practice. It often is used to build camaraderie amongst teammates.
Why is PEPPER Banned at some Ballparks?
If Pepper is so advantageous for both a team’s hitters and fielders, then why is it banned at so many places? Let us take a look at some reasons why the game of Pepper is banned at some ballparks all over the world. Here are some reasons below:
- Fan and Spectator Safety– Many fans and spectators have been injured by batted balls from the game of PEPPER.
- Player Safety– Even players have been hurt by competing in Pepper due to the batter hitting unintentional line drives directly at the fielders.
- Insurance Reasons– Ballpark owners simply do NOT want the insurance liability that comes along with allowing Pepper in their respective venues. If a fan or player gets injured from a Pepper game, it could open that ballpark owner up to a slew of lawsuits.
- Field Damage– Allowing baseball players to play Pepper on the same infield or outfield surface damages the grass or turf over time due to increased wear and tear.
- Financial Reasons– This reason goes right along with the field damage and insurance reasons that were mentioned above. Damage to infield or outfield grass (whether natural grass or astro-turf) is very costly. Too much damage eats into that team owner’s profit and operating budget.
Some Variations of the Game of PEPPER
The game of Pepper has been modified by some baseball coaches over the years to further increase the players’ skills. Here are some of those variations below:
- Bunt Pepper– Bunting is often said to be “dying art” in the game of baseball. Playing Pepper with a bunting stance instead of a full swing stance can improve all hitters’ bunting skills. The batter must focus on bunting the ball on the ground avoiding the dreaded “bunt pop-up” that is often headache for all baseball coaches around the world.
- Diving Drill Pepper– This variation of Pepper is often used to increase each infielders’ and outfielders’ diving ability. The batter focuses on hitting soft line drives and the fielders attempt to never let the ball hit the ground. This drill teaches players how to safely dive for the ball and avoid potential injury while doing so. This variation of Pepper is often considered the most fun by players and coaches since it encourages making “highlight” reel type of plays.
- Hit-And-Run Pepper– This variation of Pepper is used regularly by coaches in order to increase the batter’s ability to perform the Hit-And-Run. The Hit-And-Run is where the baseball coach orders the baserunner to run on the next pitch. The hitter is then ordered to swing on that same pitch (no matter where the pitch is located) in order to help advance the runner to the next base. In this variation of Pepper, the hitter assumes a modified batting stance and utilizes a short, compact swing to hopefully hit a ground ball.
Final Thoughts about the Game of Pepper
The game of Pepper has been played for several decades by baseball players all over the world. It was made extremely popular by the Saint Louis Cardinals of the 1930’s, who were known as the “Gas House Gang”. The Saint Louis Cardinal players of that decade would often do crazy antics (like throwing the ball behind their backs and underneath their legs) during their Pepper games in order to entertain the fans who came to watch their pre-game warmups.
Have you ever played Pepper? Do you like the game of Pepper or see any potential benefits in it? I hope this blog post about Pepper has further increased your knowledge of it and its rules, history, and variations.