By Sam Piraro, former head coach, San Jose State
One of the most underrated and underappreciated processes of baseball evaluation and development is the basic Intrasquad scrimmage, a type of competition that can elevate your team’s improvement and confidence, as well as reinforce and players’ skills and instill a greater understanding of team philosophies and core values.
Here are just a few things that this “game like” experience can do:
- Develop game day routine and protocol
- Implement practice emphasis into game-like situations
- Create situations that promote player evaluation/development
- Create an understanding of “score/strategy” relationship
- Install sign systems
- How to Deal With Umpires
- Provide a tangible evaluation system for your team
Intrasquads were a focal point of our program at San Jose State. They allowed us to teach our system and reinforce our baseball philosophy. At SJSU, we tried to create as many competitive situations in practice as possible, utilizing radar guns and/or the stopwatch whenever we could. Oftentimes, we placed cones on the field to emphasize alignment and precision in defensive positioning and base running leads and angles.
Our intrasquads were designed to continually emphasize and reinforce our five Core Values:
- THROW QUALITY STRIKES- develop/learn strike zone system
- CATCH THE BASEBALL- allow no more than three outs per inning
- PUT THE BALL IN PLAY- two-strike and situational hitting
- EXECUTE ON BOTH SIDES OF BALL- sound fundamentals in all aspects
- ELIMINATE PRE PITCH MISTAKES- no missed signs, proper alignment, pre-pitch checklist
These core values were not lip service. These concepts were discussed, emphasized and evaluated daily following our practices and scrimmages, and our players were quizzed on our Core Values on a regular basis.
We also developed some intrasquad parameters that we wanted to be sure our team followed:
- On/off the field in 30 seconds- sprint to/from your position
- 60 seconds between innings (90 seconds when a new pitcher is coming in), with a ball/strike penalty enforced when necessary
- Start innings with runners on first base in odd innings and a runner on second in even innings- can cater this to emphasize offensive/defensive execution
- Ground ball double plays are worth three outs- if already one out, the extra out would carry over into the next inning. Double plays are game changers!
- Two-base mentality- runners are expected to go from home to second and first to third whenever possible
- Any successful drag/push bunt, base on balls or HBP results in that hitter getting an extra at-bat- requires baserunners at the ready
- Called third strikes = lose your next at-bat
- Pitchers limited to 25 pitches; counts could start in 0-2 in designated innings; hitters work on two-strike approach and pitchers work on two-strike “kill” pitches
Eventually, our players learned how the score
of the game often dictated their levels of aggressiveness. This was strongly
emphasized towards the end of the game (i.e. the seventh inning on). We wanted
them to compete to win while understanding how the scoreboard situation plays a
part in the process. This included base running, pitch calling, taking pitches
and defensive alignments. These lessons would be very helpful by the time the
regular season was upon us.
Intrasquads remain a great way for coaches to see their players compete in gamelike situations, develop their abilities to gather, evaluate and apply practice data, and reinforce your team’s core philosophies. It’s also a way for you to evaluate and gauge your team’s performance in a tangible manner. We found the players actually looked forward to seeing the grading system and how they contributed to an actual game.
I hope each of you can utilize the Intrasquad game in your programs and get the same benefits as we did.