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:
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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??
- 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: