Pepper Games? You Bet!
The game of pepper is an exercise that features one player hitting brisk ground balls to a group of fielders who are standing approximately 15-20 feet away. When the ball is fielded by a respective athlete, that player pitches the ball back to the batter as efficiently as possible.
This cycle is repeated until the batter either swings and misses, or the ball is caught in the air by a fielder. At that point, the players rotate, the batter goes to the end of the fielding line and a new athlete handles the bat.
Pepper may not be as popular as it was in the past, but that’s no indication of the value of the drill. A major reason that we don’t see it as much these days is because the drill has been banned from many ballparks.
The reason behind the “No Pepper Games” signs on display at many parks is the fear that an errant hit or pitch could land in the stands and injure a spectator. The other reason has to do with grounds keeping. The propensity for players to stand in one spot and shuffle their spikes while playing in a small area on the grass is detrimental to the field of play. Apparently groundskeepers aren’t too fond of the grass being destroyed because some players wanted to warm up in this particular fashion.
Pepper is an outstanding drill because it’s fun, interactive and promotes hand-eye coordination in the batter’s box and in the field. It’s an ideal warm-up for those “early bird” athletes who arrive before a designated game or practice time. This exercise is ideal for athletes 9-years of age and older, it requires two or more players, a game bat, baseballs and fielding gloves.
The game of Pepper can evolve in a variety of ways - like hitting the baseball to a different fielder in sequence or calling out the player you are batting the ball to. It can also be varied by the fielders in the drill. If the players with the gloves don't catch the ball, but tap it with their glove or bare hand to another non-batter - then you’re working on a new skill set that is equal parts practical and enjoyable.