Q Why is pepper forbidden at ballparks?
A The practice game of pepper—in which a hitter raps the ball to fielders standing at close range, who then quickly feed the ball back to the batter—is a staple drill at almost every level of baseball, except the majors. "We play pepper all the time in the minors, but up here nobody does it," says Giants rookie shortstop Cody Ransom. That's likely due to the numerous NO PEPPER signs that are posted all around big league parks, signs that are so conspicuous that many fans who have no idea what the drill is know of the ban.
The prohibition, which dates back to the '50s, arose because groundskeepers hated the way pepper tore up grass. These days, teams have another reason for the ban: risk of fan injury. "Back in the old days, if a fan got one in the face, he might ask you to sign the ball," says veteran Tigers infielder Damion Easley. "Now he'd want you to sign a check."
Although big leaguers say they love playing pepper—and some occasionally sneak in a game—most note that today's tightly scheduled practices leave little time for it. "The game's so specialized, you've got drills and coaches for everything," says the Giants' Jeff Kent. "There just isn't time for pepper."