Batting Practice (1868)

“Charles, at third, retired seven men, making a beautiful fly catch of a line ball. With proper batting practice, he will prove an addition to the National nine.” The Argus [Albany], October 9, 1868, p4
— Applied to an individual’s need for practice.

“The Eckfords appeared in force, and for half an hour before the game were getting their muscle up by batting practice, and preparing for sharp work by throwing the ball swiftly around the bases.” The World [New York], June 18, 1870, p9
— Applied to pregame practice by a team.

“Their [the Athletics outfielders’] batting was uniformly weak, and they must have batting practice if they expect to do themselves full justice.” The Philadelphia Inquirer, July 15, 1872, p2
— Applied to a group of players’ need for more practice.

Previous earliest use (Dickson Baseball Dictionary, 3rd edition, 2009):

  1. 1894. “Members of the Boston baseball team are badly in need of a little batting practice…. Manager [Frank] Selee will suggest…the putting up of nets such as they use at the big colleges for batting practice” (Tim Murnane, Boston Globe, May 7; Peter Morris). 
    — That period of pregame time set aside for hitters to improve the swings, speed, and timing of their batting habits. 

2.  1872. “[Liberty’s] pitcher is exceedingly swift, though somewhat wild in delivery, and afforded excellent batting practice for the Troys against their game with the Baltimores to-morrow” (Chicago Tribune,  July 3).   
— The offensive production of a team having a field day against a particular team or pitcher.