Making Yourself A Target
Infielders have a plethora of duties and most are situational dependent. Today we’re going to look specifically at their job as the relay or cutoff man.
A few weeks ago we covered outfielder drills. Included in those was an emphasis on the first half of the cutoff and relay drill. At that time we used this same video. We feel it bears repeating so that infielders have a solid go-to spot for learning and reinforce the basics of their responsibilities on these plays.
If you are new to the games of baseball or softball one of the most difficult things to learn will be memorizing the cutoff situations. That’s because every fielding scenario creates a new physical position for the players.
It is a complicated process to get mentally engrained so it’s important to have a good feel for it before you step foot on the field. The double cutoff allows players to have more than one person to throw into from the outfield before the ball reaches home. Included in the link provided are diagrams and explanations for each player’s duties depending on the in-game situation.
The single cutoff is for older players with a bit more arm strength and on-field experience. It also can cover shorter-throw situations such as hits just over the infielder’s head.
Once you have the basics down, then you can concentrate on a position-centric understanding. If you are a middle-infielder, then this is a must read for improving your minds muscle memory on positioning.
Now that you’ve got the overall concepts down, take a look at some general drills for each situation.
If you’re inside the gym until the spring thaw, here’s a great drill to get your infielders accustomed to becoming targets for the throw.
Warm Up Positions
The diagram outlines the entire drill assuming all players are right-handed. Switch sides on the rotation for lefties. If you have enough same-handed people to allow grouping it is ideal to practice, at least at the start, with non-mixed groups to increase both target accuracy and speed in release.
Place four players in a line 20-40 yards apart (depending on their age).
Have a player on one end throw the ball to the glove side of the person facing them. That person is then to catch and release the ball to the glove side of the person behind them in a single motion. When the ball gets to the final player, they should make a catch and release following a 180-degree turn.
Older players should become mobile, moving toward the ball upon release, to simulate in-game conditions. Balls off the ground should be caught at the height of their bounce with balls in the air being captured mid-flight.
All players should catch the ball on their glove side. Moving their body in whatever way is necessary to make that happen is the objective. There should be no catching across their body. This allows for a quicker turn/throw single motion.
Here’s a visual of how the catch and release should look when properly executed. One note, these players keep their hands pretty close to the chest on their ready position. The bigger you make yourself as a target for the outfielder, the more “ready” you become to receive the throw. We recommend training your players using the initial video above for best results.
On the Field
Split players into three groups outfield, infield and catcher.
Place two players (more if you have them) at each of the outfield positions.
On the infield, skipping 1st base, place two people in their normal spots (not on base) for 2nd, 3rd and SS. Add two players in the catcher spot as well.
Coach hits a fly ball to left field. Fielder throws it to 3rd then to the catcher. The players then follow their throw so LF becomes 3rd, 3rd becomes catcher and catcher goes to LF.
Coach continues the rotation, next going to center, then right, as the players continue their own rotations. This keeps all three groups moving at all times.
It gives players a hands-on understanding of the other fielders' positions and how to better communicate with one another throughout the play.
With all that running around the drill is not only an excellent use of time but a great conditioning exercise as well.
The cut-off drill is equal parts mental and physical. The body needs to know where to go in each situation but it is the muscle of the mind that helps the rotation become ingrained. There are dozens of situations that can unfold and, when diagramed, each can look more like a football play book than anything you’re accustomed to seeing in softball or baseball. Still, each must be learned and repeated until they become part of the muscle memory in real time.
There are hundreds of possible sources for each step in the process but we found one that covers not only the physical but the mental aspects of these drills as well. It includes situational diagrams and directions for coaching the plays, drills to run for the physical aspect as well as dugout drills to keep players fresh in real time.
This drill requires a pitching machine for speed and accuracy training. Naturally, you can simulate the same situations using a fungo but the machine creates a more game-realistic pace, allows for more repetitions and increases the opportunity to train to placement accuracy.
The most difficult aspect of learning the cutoff and relay remains mental. Training the muscle memory which player to throw to, and where to position yourself for fastest results, are the key to keeping the opposition limited on the base path. Only through repletion and memorization will it become second-nature in game. Executed correctly, it looks like the most routine process in the world. That is the beauty in the game.
Done wrong well, let’s just say, you never want to be this guy… or gal.