Every once in a while you may hear Ron and Keith mention “PFP” during a Mets broadcast. Contrary to popular belief, “PFP” is not a drug that was popular in the Mets dugout in the 1980s; rather, it is an acronym for “Pitchers’ Fielding Practice”.
PFP is simply explained as the pitcher covering first, and here’s how it works. The pitchers line up on the pitcher’s mound, and one by one they go through their pitching motion — without the ball — and at the end of their “make believe” release, a coach will toss or hit a ball between the mound and first base. The pitcher reacts by either going after the ball or sprinting up the first base line with his glove up as a target to catch the throw from the first baseman. Other than ingraining the habit of covering first, the three critical issues are 1.) to take a “banana” route toward first base, running parallel to the first base line; 2.) getting to the bag in time to catch the toss from the first baseman; and 3.) to both catch the ball and step on the bag before the imaginary runner reaches it first — which can be slightly more difficult than walking and chewing gum simultaneously.
They do this drill literally thousands of times, yet it’s a foregone conclusion that several pitchers forget to cover first in the first week of the regular season … no one knows why.
Here are pictures of some of the Mets pitchers going through “PFP” on the back fields at Tradition in Port St. Lucie.
Oliver Perez goes through his motion without the ball. Scott Schoeneweis is next in line.
Pedro has gone through his motion and is waiting to see where the ball goes (or he has spotted me taking pictures of his car … no one’s quite sure).
There goes Pedro after the ball (or to fetch a security guard).
Here’s Johan Santana busting it toward the first base line.
Johan successfully completes the exercise.
Duaner Sanchez takes the toss and makes a good stretch.
Aaron Heilman gets to the bag in plenty of time.
Thrilling stuff, I know.
You may notice other players in the background doing things as well; on the field there are several drills going on at once, and balls flying all over the place. As you might guess, it’s a recipe for disaster yet somehow no one gets killed, year after year. The most interesting thing of this hazardous structure is that if you look around, there are four or five empty diamonds around the complex — so why do it all in one spot? Another mystery of “tradition” in the old ballgame … it has always been done that way and always will be done that way.