The Loyola baseball team had just finished taking infield practice before the 1999 Class 2A state championship game in Baton Rouge and the Flyers were coming off the field as Teurlings Catholic was preparing for its turn.
“Have a seat, guys,” said Flyers’ assistant coach Glen Hunt. “It’s time to watch the circus.”
And it was. Teurlings put every single player on the field – not just the starters – and proceeded to have an infield-outfield session that had to be seen to be believed. (Loyola had seen it the previous day in the semifinals.)
There were always at least three live baseballs in play at one time and nobody ever stopped moving. There was enough choreography going on to make a Broadway producer jealous.
It’s hard to know exactly what kind impact it had on the Flyers as they watched from the first base dugout. It may be too much to say that the Flyers had lost before the game even started, but it sure didn’t take long. Loyola lost 12-1. It only took five innings.
There’s a lot more going on in pre-game practice in baseball than just take a few ground balls. Or even for those who don’t take any.
The popular term for taking pre-game infield and outfield practice is “in and out” but while some teams are still “in,” there are a growing number who are “out.” Put it this way – don’t be surprised if at least one of the teams doesn’t trot out there for a few grounders before the game starts.
“I’ve got a philosophy on that,” says veteran Haughton coach Glenn Maynor. “If the team we are playing doesn’t want to take infield or outfield before a game, that team shouldn’t beat us.”
Imagine going to a football game and the place kickers didn’t come out early and practice some kicks. Not a care in the world about the wind conditions.
How about a basketball game in which the players didn’t take a few layups or practice a few free throws just to get a feel for the tightness of the rims or the depth perception of the goal?
But it happens in baseball – and a lot more than you’d think.
At the Class 5A level, almost all continue to take in-and-out before the game, but the lower you go in classification, the more likely it is that they might not.
“We take it (on the road) so that we can get used to the field and get settled in before the game starts,” said Byrd coach Greg Williams. “On the road, you are looking to see how the grass plays and how the ball reacts. At home, you already know that, but baseball coaches like routine and that’s just what we like to do.”
You probably won’t see the “circus,” but most teams that do take it like to send more than just the starters on the field. “It’s not really a game, but it feels like one to the younger players,” Northwood’s Austin Alexander said. “It’s a free chance to get some game experience for some of those guys.”
Early-season tournaments or weather conditions can be a reason to not take infield, but for teams that don’t take it before a game, there’s a simple reason why: They don’t want to give the opposition a free scouting report.
At least, that’s the thought process.
Maynor says he really doesn’t pay much attention to what the opposition is doing. “I might ask my assistant coach about how the outfield arms are,” he says. “But for most part, I’ve got my own team to worry about before a game starts.”
“I check to see about the outfield arms,” Williams said. “A lot of times I’ll look and see if a guy pitched a few nights before, how he’s throwing the ball.”
Alexander says he didn’t take in-and-out his first two years, but does it now and his players look forward to it.
“They love it,” the fourth-year coach said. “It’s a big deal to them and they take a lot of pride in it.”
So what if the pre-game session doesn’t go so well, with dropped fly balls and through-the-wickets grounders?
“Better to get that out of the way before the game,” Alexander says, “than during it.”
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