The Importance of Making a Good Relay Throw

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A good relay throw will help get your team out of a tough inning. Rob Friedman - Getty Images

The relay play is one of the most critical plays a baseball team has to make. A perfectly carried out relay can lead to an out and minimal damage, while one not executed can lead to runs being scored and a big inning for your opponent.

Before we get into executing the relay throw, let’s break down exactly what it is.

The Relay Play

All levels of baseball utilize the relay play to get the ball from the outfield to the appropriate base.

When a batter hits a deep fly ball that the outfielder needs to run a good distance to get, their arm is more than likely not strong enough to make a throw back into a base.

When this occurs, an infielder runs into the outfield to “cutoff” the throw, reducing the distance between where the ball was fielded and the base it needs to be “relayed” to.

It is the outfielder’s job to field the ball and turn around as quickly as he can to pick up where the cutoff man is and hit him with a good throw. The cutoff man then wheels around and immediately throws the ball to the base he is instructed to by the other infielders or his bench.

Who Goes Where?

OK, so we’ve basically covered the outfielder’s role on this play. He fields the ball like normal and then throws it to the cutoff man.

But who the cutoff man? Well, it’s geographical.

If the ball is hit anywhere from the right field line to the right-centerfield gap, it is the second baseman’s responsibility to go out and act as the cutoff man, while the shortstop covers second.

On the other hand, if the ball is hit anywhere from the leftfield line to left-centerfield gap, roles get reversed and the shortstop goes out while the second baseman covers.

Now, if the ball is hit deep to straight away center, either can go out. This can be determined based on a preset decision, whomever is playing closest to the bag, or based on communication in the moment between your middle infielders.

While all this is going on, it is very important that coaches and other players yell at the cutoff man, instructing him where to throw the ball. He’ll have his back turned to the runners so he won’t knew where anyone is and will need help to know where to wheel and throw the ball.

A Helpful Drill

The most important part of the play is the outfielder hitting the cutoff man and the cutoff man wheeling around and making a solid throw. To practice, try this handy drill.

Break your team up into two even groups in the outfield. Line each group up in a straight line and put plenty of room between them so they can all make a decent throw.

Place a ball on the ground ahead of one player at the head of each line and have him face the ball, thus turning his back to the rest of the line. On your whistle, have that player pick up the ball, turn around and throw it to the second player in the line.

Then have that player turn and throw it to the next player and so on until it reaches the end of the line. You can then restart this drill from the other end and move back, or even take the player who started the drill and move him to the end of the line and move each player up a spot so each has a chance to field the ball from the ground and act as a cutoff man.