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My article about intentional walks has received quite a few comments, mostly complaints. However, I defend my position to this day, and the story I am about to tell about my player’s day of glory would never have happened had his brother not received an intentional walk.
First, let me set the scenario. The player in question was not entirely happy with me last year. Yeah, I know that’s hard to believe, but it happens occasionally
. However, this year, his brother joined our team. His brother is a seasoned veteran, our clean up hitter, multiple home run hitter, and always in the spotlight. His brother, along w/ my own son, lead the team in strike outs last year.
Nevertheless, neither my son, nor this player, let that dissuade them. They both worked hard to make themselves better. In fact, in the game prior, my son was on 3
rd, this player was on 2 nd, and they had both just brought in the go ahead and inevitable winning runs. I told them straight up, “how cool is this, you have both gone from leading the team in strike outs to driving in the go ahead runs”. Those who know or play for me know you are always going to get the hard truth out of my mouth, how you deal with it is up to you.
Now for the moment of glory. This is long, but it is well worth the read. Our team was more or less and expansion team last year. We had 8 10-year olds and 4 12-year olds. We only won 3 games all season yet it was one of the most positive experiences in which I have ever been involved. The last game of our season we were scheduled to play a team who was 1 game out of first place and trying to force a play off. They still had to play the team they were trailing and needed to beat us during the week and them on Saturday. We caught them looking past our young team with only 2 victories at the time and defeated them to knock them out of the championship for good. To us, it was the world series and a perfect ending to our season.
This year, almost the same scenario unfolds. The only difference, our last game is against this same team. They must defeat us to have a chance to force a playoff game for the championship. We are better this year with a record over .500 as 11-year olds but they are all also much better as well. In fact, they had already beat us 3 times before this year. They certainly were not looking past us this time though, they respected us and knew we were capable of beating them even though overall they were the better team.
In the first inning, they jump out to a 2-0 lead on a great home run on a great pitch. One where you simply have to “tip your cap” to the hitter because he drove a great knee high pitch over the fence. Later in the game, the same batter came up with runners on second and third with two outs. We chose to pitch around him because he was pretty well protected. Once the count was 3-1, we just went ahead and walked him. He took his base without complaint, the manager and coaches of the other team understood, and the next batter came up. He ripped a 2-run single past 2
nd base and scored 2 more runs. We were down 4-0 and it didn’t look good.
Somehow during the course of the game we scratched out a run, so going into the top of the 6
th inning, the score was 4-1. The outlook was bleak. Our chance at a championship had ended many weeks before, so our ultimate objective was to get all of our kids as many at-bats and innings in the field as possible for the rest of the season. This meant we were batting the entire line up. Of course, we were on the 11 th and 12 th hitters as the baseball Gods would dictate in this situation.
We went into safety-first take a pitch mode. The first batter drew a great walk laying off some very tough pitches. The second batter, who has been struggling all year, hits into a fielders choice. Top of the order, 1 out! We got a chance! Leadoff batter walks in 4 straight pitches as you would expect from a lead-off hitter. The next batter, battles, and battles, and battles, fouling off 4 pitches before he rips one over the left fielder’s head. 4-3, tying run on 2
nd, winning run up to bat. The next batter does his job with a ground out to 2 nd advancing the tying run to 3 rd. 2 outs, tying run on 3 rd, winning run at the plate.
Who comes up? Of course, our stud clean up batter. Mr. Clutch. We got this thing right? He’s gonna jack a homer and put us up like he always does, or at least knock the runner in, he is Mr. Clutch leading our team in every offensive category there is! But no, the opposing coach calls time and walks out to talk to the pitcher. I didn’t hear this, but the batter comes over to me dejected and says “man, they are going to intentionally walk me”. Immediately, I say, “great”, much to his surprise. I go on to explain that the baseball Gods will be angry and will make them pay for this move. You NEVER put the winning run on base with an intentional walk, and this will make them pay!
They successfully walk him, he sprints past first, onto 2
nd and we have 2 nd and 3 rd, two outs, down by 1. Now who steps into the batters box but the stud’s little brother! Yeah, the same guy who lead our team in strike outs had hit his way into the 5 spot on our team. An RBI position! It was time for his moment of glory!
First, had they not walked his brother, it is very likely he would have gotten a hit and tied the game, maybe a home run, and the family would have gone home happy celebrating his success, again, it would have been a great night. However, because they walked his older brother, his younger brother was given a shot to deliver a hit he will remember for the rest of his life. Something he will talk about forever, something that molded his very character and proved through true grit, determination, and hard work he could succeed against all odds. All because of the intentional walk! If he fails, no biggie, just another out, but what transpired was magical, to use my best friend Sarah’s terminology.
The kid steps up to bat, two outs, tying run on 3
rd, go ahead run on 2 nd, he looks down for his signal and I see something in his eye I have never seen from him before. Determination. There is little doubt in my mind he is about to hit the ball, it is time for his moment of glory. First pitch, a spinner in the dirt, “oh no” he swung at it! Strike one. Not a great start. He scowls and looks down again, I remind him that it’s moments like this that we play the game for, just hit the ball, but be smart, the pitcher is a little wild. The next 3 pitches, balls that he lays off of! Ones over his head that he would have swung at last year, this year he is more disciplined and lets them pass. 3-1 count, he is right where he wants to be. Foul ball, straight back, he is right on this! He has this!
He looks back at me with fury in his eyes! Slams his bat on the plate, gets right on top of the plate, refusing to strike out, just like we teach him. Just put something in play and good things happen we say a million times if not once. The pitcher winds and delivers a pitch on the outside corner, just where he is looking, he swings, contact, hard contact, a screaming ground ball by the 2
nd baseman and into the gap between right field and center field. Two runs in, us in the lead and the cheers out of control! We follow that up with a couple more hits and his brother, the stud, finishes them off on the mound.
This is a moment that I will remember the rest of my life. It is a moment that his parents will cherish forever. It’s a time when he stole the spotlight from his brother who stands a foot taller and a time he will remember for the rest of his life. It was truly his, MOMENT OF GLORY! It would have been a shame for the other manager to STEAL HIS MOMENT OF GLORY by pitching to his brother instead of intentionally walking him. How can you possibly make the argument against the intentional walk? What follows brings memories that last a lifetime, without it, its just another stud with another game winning hit.
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