Teaching the basics of Longball

Seneca Longball Played Again at Ganondagan State Historic Site

ICTMN Staff
6/8/11

Long before baseball became America's past time and dodgeball became a staple of elementary school gym class, the Seneca Nation were playing a precursor to both, longball, in Ganondagan, the heartbeat of the Seneca people some 300-years ago.

DemocratAndChronicle.com reported on a recent game of longball played at Ganondagan State Historic Site in Victor, New York, this past June 5.  The game resembles baseball in that includes a bat and a ball, and dodgeball in that you can throw the ball at people to get them oute, but the similarities fall away quickly when you take a closer look at the game. Ganondagan State Historic Site offered the community a chance to come by, learn about the history of the sport, and play a game on June 5.  The success, and fun, of the day has led to a second game on the schedule for July 5.

First, the bat is no where near as thick as a regular baseball bat (which typically  has a width of around 2 5/8 inches) and the ball isn't hard like the cork, rubber, yarn and leather makeup of a baseball.  The balls for longball are made in part from moss or the fluff from a milkweed plant, making the balls malleable.  This is imperative considering one of the joys of the game is trying to strike your opponents with a well aimed throw.

The Onondaga Nation's site describes longball as a "simple game of hitting and running using a leather ball and a long slender wooden bat.  What complicates and excites such a simple game are the rules used for the game."

Those rules start with the boundary, which is in the shape of a V, with the batter standing where the two lines meet.  Teams are comprised of nine players to a side, and the first team to score 21 points wins.

Traditional longball bat

Only three batters are allowed per team, turning the remaining six players into runners.  Runners line up and wait for the batters to put the ball into play.  If a ball is caught by the pitcher in the air or on one bounce, it's an out and you change sides.  If you hit the ball outside of the V boundary, it's an out and you change sides.  Batters don't run, they simply swing and hit, and wait until the next batter is up to run.

The real fun starts when a ball is hit into play. Once that happens, they run the length of the first line, then charge through the middle of the field to run the length of the second line while trying to avoid getting hit ("People cheer when runs are scored but we all laugh and cheer just to get together and maybe see a good bruise," the Onondaga Nation site gleefully states).

For more information on the upcoming longball match, visit ganondagan.org

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