Intentional Walks in Youth Baseball –Smart Coaching or Bad Sportsmanship
Should intentional walks be a part of youth baseball? The quick answer is no, however, pitchers should use their heads, when trying to win baseball games, even at the lower levels of ball. Coaches make the call as to whether a batter should be walked intentionally, but pitchers still must think and plan their way around the lineup, too.
Good pitchers rely on more than just their arm to get batters out and to win games. They have to use their head too, of course.
I am not a believer in using intentional walks for pre high school baseball players. However, I believe it is OK to play to win at all levels of baseball. Those may seem contradictory, and are somewhat, as there is a fine line between playing to win and playing with sportsmanship.
There are certain batters in the batting order that can hurt a pitcher’s chances at winning games more than other batters in the order. Learning to pitch to batters, who are more dangerous, especially with the game on the line is something pitchers must learn to do. Being extra careful in those situations, but still pitching to those players is good baseball, without losing the spirit of youth sports.
Coaches should remind pitchers of the following in-game situations, so pitchers can pitch accordingly:
A. The hitters in the batting order that are due up that inning – pitchers must learn to pitch lower batters in the order differently than those at the top. At a young age, they may can experiment with change-ups on weak hitters until they are comfortable using them against the best hitters.
B. Who is, or appears to be a swinging the hot bat that day – some hitters are dangerous because they having a hot day, even though they are not known to be one of the better hitters.
C. The third batter in the order is usually the opposing team’s best hitter, so it is important that pitchers are aware when he is up to bat in a game winning situation.
Once again, at the youth level, I do not propose intentionally walking players, but that does not mean that pitchers should not learn to be more careful to certain batters, while still pitching to them.