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5 Catching Keys for the Intentional Walk

By: Cindy Bristow

Let’s all admit it that pitching is our obsession and the better our pitchers are the better our team. But your catcher can make all the difference when you’ve decided you’re NOT pitching to this hitter.


The intentional walk is intended to keep your team from pitching to hitter on the other team. How many times have you watched your pitcher blow this very simple skill and the whole things backfires on you? Know the 5 keys to keeping this simple skill – simple.

While most teams will decide to Intentionally Walk the other team’s Most Dangerous Hitter it can be used in numerous situations. For instance, your opponents have runners on 2nd and 3rd base with 2 outs. You might decide to intentionally walk the hitter at the plate to load the bases and create a force play at all four bases for your defense.

There are a few very important keys to successfully executing an intentional walk that can make all the difference in the world between your pitcher putting this hitter on 1st base and throwing a meatball over the middle of the plate!

Keys to the Intentional Walk:

    Fastpitch Softball Catchers Box Tips for Catchers

  1. Use the Whole Catching Box – In most cases your rules say that the catcher must start anywhere within the catcher’s box in order to receive the pitch. The catcher’s box is the area behind homeplate that goes from the outside line of each batter’s box and extends 7 feet from the back of both batter’s boxes. The catcher’s box is 8 ½ feet wide and 7 feet deep. The catcher is allowed to start anywhere within this catcher’s box to set up for, and receive the Pitchout for the Intentional Walk.

    What this means is that your catcher does NOT have line up behind homeplate and then quickly jump out to catch the pitchout for the intentional walk. (NOTE: be sure and check with your local rules to make sure exactly what your rules say).

    I’m quoting NCAA rules so if your rules allow your catcher to start any place within the catching box then have her start as close to the outside line as possible to make catching the pitchout as easy as possible.

  2. Practice – The BIG key to successfully pitching intentional walks is to PRACTICE them! You can’t expect a pitcher to put a big hitter on first base during a big game if she’s never practiced it! Your pitchers should practice intentional walks at least once a week. Be sure to mix intentional walks in with your pitcher’s other pitches so she might be working on curveballs and then the catcher suddenly calls for an intentional walk. This will really force her to stay sharp and really execute in practice!
  3. Fastpitch Softball Catchers practicing pitching intentional walks to left handed and right handed hitters

  4. Go Left and Right – Pitchers and catchers need to practice pitching intentional walks to both left handed and right handed hitters. While this sounds simple it means the catcher will signal for intentional walks to one side with her bare hand and to the other side with her glove. Catchers need to practice intentional walks just as much as pitchers do.
  5. Hit the Tips of the Fingers – When the catcher stands up and holds her hand or glove to signal for the intentional walk, the pitcher must concentrate on hitting the tips of the catcher’s fingers (Barehand fingers or fingers in her glove). She isn’t aiming for the catcher’s chest but the tips of her fingers. While this might not sound like a big deal, it’s a huge change for most pitchers. When was the last time you had your pitcher aim for the finger tips of your catcher??
  6. Chest High Fastball – Now that the catcher’s set, what pitch should your pitcher throw? The key is it must be a chest high pitch that she’s very confident in and that’s easy for the catcher to catch. While a rise might be what the pitcher throws best for a chest high pitch it’s probably not the most reliable pitch or easiest one for the catcher to catch. The pitch needs to be a chest high fastball, so make sure you pitcher practices this – and often!

If you’re looking for more help with your catchers, check out the following:

Filed under: All,Catching — Tags: , , , , , — Cindy Bristow @ 9:00 pm

10 Comments »

  1. Your right. This is certainly something you don’t want to blow. A ball accidentally hung over the plate or thrown wild can have very bad consequences. While it may not be something you use very often, it’s most definitely something you need to execute well. These are some very basic tips, but also may be overlooked by coaches and their pitchers and catchers.

    Thanks Cindy!

    Comment by Stacie — May 4, 2010 @ 12:04 pm

  2. Good stuff, hung one out there last week in a game on the 3rd pitch. Caught at the fence by our centerfielder. We will be practicing these starting tomorrow. Thanks

    Comment by Dan Ries — May 7, 2010 @ 12:54 am

  3. These are some great tips. Someone has tried to intentionally walk me, but ended up pitching a meatball over the middle of the plate. This was the pitch I hit the game winning single on during the second international tiebreaker of the game. Such a simple mistake could have bad consequences if you don’t know what to do. Thanks!

    Comment by Emmy — May 11, 2010 @ 5:02 pm

  4. Thanks Cindy for the tip. Our pitcher blew her intentional walk which led to the game winning run in a crucial conference game.

    Comment by Sheryl Neff- Head Coach Barton College — May 12, 2010 @ 10:56 am

  5. can a regular player backup the catcher during an intentional walk, just in case the ball gets away from the catcher, and there is a man on third.

    Comment by thermanmunson — September 28, 2010 @ 8:49 pm

  6. all players must be in fair territory until the ball is pitched so that means that no player can backup the catcher during an intentional walk – it would be a good idea, though, if it were legal – but it’s not.

    Comment by Cindy Bristow — September 29, 2010 @ 8:28 am

  7. i watch a super regional game where during an intentional walk the pitcher pitched to the catcher (ball 1), the catcher then threw the ball to the third baseman (ball 2) and this was repeated again for ball 3 and 4. What is the rule on this?

    Comment by bill6625 — May 27, 2014 @ 1:07 pm

  8. Whenever there are no runners on base, and the catcher throws anywhere but back to the pitcher, it’s a ball on the batter. Normally you want to avoid this, but Baylor uses this to their advantage when they are trying to intentionally walk a batter without any runners on base. They do just what you described: they pitch a ball out of the strikezone (ball one), the catcher throws down to the 3rd baseman (ball 2) who throws to the pitcher who repeats this one more time. So instead of risking 4 pitches trying to walk the batter, they only risk 2 pitches. Smart use of the rules by Baylor coach Glenn Moore if you ask me!

    Comment by Cindy Bristow — May 27, 2014 @ 8:19 pm

  9. My 10 year old daughter was just intentionally walked in a softball game. The coach simply told the umpire that she was being walked. She herself is one of her teams pitchers. She asked me if it was legal to do, or was the pitcher supposed to actually pitch the balls. I think it is a little unfair, since her age group now steals bases after a ball is passed the plate.

    Comment by njf20000 — June 21, 2014 @ 1:22 pm

  10. That’s exactly how they walk people in international softball, by simply telling the umpire we want to walk her – no pitches have to be thrown. So, before you get upset you need to make sure you know the rules where you’re playing.

    Comment by Cindy Bristow — June 24, 2014 @ 10:55 am

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