In one of my recent baseball games we were playing one of the best teams in the league and this team also happened to have one of the best hitters in the league. Our team opted to walk this batter three times in one game, sometimes to load the bases. Seeing another player intentionally walked that many times had me wondering how many intentional walks are allowed per game. So I decided to do some research.
There is no set rule for how many times a batter can be intentionally walked in a single game. As a general rule, batters can be intentionally walked every time they come up to bat.
The number of times a batter can be intentionally walked is the same across all levels of baseball. There may be some baseball leagues that limit the number of intentional walks allowed per game, but overall, most baseball leagues do not have a limit to how many intentional walks are allowed per game.
What is an Intentional Walk?
To better understand how many times a hitter can be intentionally walked in a game, let’s briefly touch on the definition of an intentional walk.
An intentional walk is when the defense chooses to walk a batter. The intentional walk can be accomplished by the pitcher throwing four obvious balls to the catcher, or by a team automatically placing a batter on first base by announcing to the umpire they are intentionally walking a batter.
Different leagues have different rules for how they allow an intentional walk to happen. A lot of leagues have adopted the MLB’s rule of letting a batter take first base without the pitcher delivering four pitches while some leagues require pitchers to throw four consecutive balls to a catcher who is far outside of the strike zone.
How Many Times Can You Intentionally Walk a Batter?
When it comes to looking up rules in baseball, one of the best places to start is by looking at the official rules of the MLB.
I did some searching around the topic of intentional walks and intentional base on balls, and there was not too much information listed in the official rules. When it comes to the intentional walk in the MLB, there is no ruling that states how many times a batter can intentionally walk in a single game.
Because there is no ruling that states how many times a hitter can be intentionally walked in a single game, hitters could end up being intentionally walked every single time they come up to bat. This means that hitters who are very good can get on base a lot easier with more intentional walks.
Barry Bonds was Intentionally Walked Four Times in One Game…Twice
When people talk about intentional walks, they also tend to talk about Barry Bonds. Barry Bonds was the left fielder for the San Francisco Giants from 1993 through 2007 and he was one of the most feared batters in all of baseball.
Because of how well Barry Bonds hit the ball, he also was intentionally walked more than any other player in the MLB. In fact, Barry Bonds holds the record for most intentional walks in a career with 688 intentional walks over his 22 years in the MLB.
And because there is no rule around how many times a player can be intentionally walked in a single game, Barry Bonds was intentionally walked four times in a single game on two separate occasions.
The first time Barry Bonds was intentionally walked four times in a single game was when the San Francisco Giants played the Florida Marlins on May 1, 2004 (view the boxscore on Baseball Reference). During the course of this game, Barry Bonds went 0-1 and was intentionally walked in the 3rd, 5th, 7th, and 8th innings.
The second time Barry Bonds was intentionally walked four times in a single game was when the San Francisco Giants played the Houston Astros on September 22, 2004 (view the boxscore on Baseball Reference). During the course of this game, Barry Bonds went 1-1 with a triple and was intentionally walked in the 3rd, 5th, 6th, and 8th innings.
How Many Times Can You Intentionally Walk a Batter in Little League?
When it comes to baseball rules, the actual rules can vary slightly from league to league. The rules of the MLB don’t always perfectly line up with what other types of leagues implement. Because of these slight differences in rules between leagues, people tend to wonder if the unlimited number of intentional walks in the Major Leagues also applies to Little League.
There is no set number of times a batter can be intentionally walked in a single Little League game. A Little League baseball player could be intentionally walked every time they come up to bat.
Fortunately for those who want to understand both sets of rules, the number of times a hitter can be intentionally walked in a game is generally the same across every type of baseball league.
Although the rule around the number of intentional walks is the same between Little League and the Major Leagues, each league is its own separate entity so there is always the possibility of one league implementing a rule on the number of times a player can be intentionally walked in a single game.
Can a Batter Refuse an Intentional Walk?
With all the information there is around how many times a batter can intentionally walk in a game, one might begin to wonder if a batter has any control over the number of times they can be intentionally walked in a game. Can a batter refuse an intentional walk?
Although there is nothing in the rule book that directly addresses a batter refusing an intentional walk, it is generally frowned upon to refuse an intentional walk. If a batter refuses, an umpire has the option to eject the batter or to rule the batter out for not taking first base.
Because there is no rule that directly addresses a batter refusing an intentional walk, it would be up to the umpire’s discretion on how to handle this scenario if it were to ever occur. There is generally a rule in all types of baseball leagues where umpires have the authority to rule on any play that is not specifically outlined within the rules.
Most umpires would try to resolve this type of conflict in a fair way, but if all else fails, umpires also have the option to eject players for not complying with the rules.