Have you ever heard ballplayers talking about fungo bats and wondered if you heard them right?
That’s understandable — “fungo” is sort of a funny word, and it’s not one you hear explained on baseball broadcasts or read about in magazines very often.
But fungo bats have along history in the game, and if you want have some diamond (ahem) fun, go ahead and read through the facts we’ve compiled below.
What is a fungo bat?
A fungo bat is a long, lightweight bat used by coaches, parents, and other players to hit balls during fielding practice. The light weight allows the “batter” to keep going for long periods without tiring. Couple with the extra length, that light weight also facilitates greater control over batted balls, allowing for more precise placement and elevation (or not) of the ball.
Thanks to fungo bats, fielders can practice their trade for long periods against actual batted balls rather than simulations in the form of throws or machine launches.
Why is it called a fungo bat?
Opinions vary as to the origins of the name “fungo,” but one likely explanation is that the term comes form the Scottish word “fung” — that one means to toss, fling, or pitch.
Some have another explanation, based on the old baseball term “goes.” Supposedly, early in the game’s history, “goes” was a reference to pregame warmup swings, as in, “have a few goes to get your kinks worked out.”
Since the bats used for fielding practice were less serious than the game models, they were “fun.” So, combining the two, we get “fun goes.”
It’s a stretch at best.
When was the first fungo bat made?
The precise origins of the fungo bat are murky, but hitting fungoes — and, by extension, fungo bats themselves — has been part of the game since at least 1867. That’s when Henry Chadwick presented his updated rulebook … and when he included a treatment of fungoes.
Who invented fungo bats?
Fungo bats were likely created on the fly and out of necessity in order to enable longer and more accurate fielding practice sessions. It’s possible that multiple renditions of the bats were created at roughly the same time in different places without the individual creators being aware of the work of others.
Though Henry Chadwick (see above) first documented the use of fungo bats, it’s not clear (and probably unlikely) that he actually invented the practice.
How much does a fungo bat weigh?
Most fungo bats weigh between 18 and 22 ounces, which is significantly lighter than a standard bat, which usually weighs 33 ounces or more. Some fungo bats, though, are as light as 13 ounces, and some are as heavy as 25 ounces.
How long is a fungo bat?
Fungo bats can be as short as about 32 inches, or they can range up to about 37 ounces. Most of the time, fungo bats fall in the range of 34 to 36 inches, with 34 inches being the most common length.
How thick is a fungo bat?
A fungo bat is 2-1/4 inches in diameter at the thickest part of the barrel. By comparison most bats used in MLB play are about 2-1/2 inches in diameter, ranging up to 2.61 inches.
What are fungo bats made of?
Many fungo bats are made of birch wood, which is light and strong enough to withstand the non-pitching striking of baseballs during long fielding practices. Some fungo bats, though, are made of other wood, like ash, and still others are made of aluminum.
Pretty much any material used in making “normal” baseball bats can be used to make fungo bats as long as adjustments are made to reach weight and length needs of fungo.