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Is batting practice necessary?

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Major League Baseball

It's a cherished baseball tradition, but many players and coaches now say that batting practice is a waste of time and can actually do more harm than good by reinforcing bad habits.

The pregame batting practice has been part of baseball since the 1880s, when players come to practice their swings before the game. It's a ritual that brings fans out early to the ballpark in hopes of shagging a ball or seeing their favorite player rip one out of the park.

But many MLB players and managers say it's a waste of time, that facing a 30-mph pitch doesn't lead to anything applicable in a game situation. Worse yet, pitchers are usually just standing around or running the risk of injury-- as what happened with Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, who tore a knee ligament while shagging BP flies. Some, like Derek Jeter or Albert Pujols, say batting practice is still useful. But they seem to be swimming against the current, if this New York Times article is any indication:

Bobby Valentine, the manager of the Boston Red Sox, thinks players get almost nothing out of traditional batting practice and would be better served working on specific drills in the indoor cages at each stadium.

“Batting practice?” he said. “I hate batting practice.”...

“Those guys are just having fun, laughing and hitting home runs,” said Jason Isringhausen, the 16-year veteran relief pitcher of the Los Angeles Angels, “and we’re standing out there picking up the balls and getting stiff backs. I guess it’s nice to get outside in the sunshine, but it’s a waste of time for everybody.”

Despite the opposition, don't look for batting practice to end any time soon; traditions die hard in Major League Baseball.

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