Every once in a while a play happens on a broadcast that is worth about a million words at practice. One of the real fundamental concepts that I stress over and over again with the teams I work with is that cut offs and relays can cost you and your team if you don’t pay attention to doing them well.
First off, cut offs and relays are not the same thing. A cut off is a play where two players work together to either change the direction of a throw or stop a throw when there is no play to be made. A relay is two players working together to make a long throw that a single player can not make by themselves. So a cut off might be a shortstop cutting off a throw to third from a right fielder on a single to right with a runner who starts at first, while a relay would be a shortstop going out to help a throw from deep right field trying to make a play at the plate.
For a cut off to work the right way, the players involved must be meticulous in how they line themselves up. The cutoff person must be directly in line from where the throw is coming to where it is going. So in our example earlier, the shortstop must be in a direct line from the right fielder to the bag at third to allow them to cut off a throw. The outfielders throw should make it to third if it isn’t cut off and pass through the cutoff person on its way to the base.
And here is where the broadcast I mentioned being worth a million words. During the Old Miss and Arizona Regional Championship game Arizona was rallying. There was a ground ball base hit to the right fielder who came up and tried to throw to the cutoff person but overthrew her. Now if they had followed the most fundamental part of good cutoff play, this would have been okay because that throw would have continued on its path to third base. Unfortunately, for Old Miss, the cutoff person was no where near lined up and when the throw was overthrown it went into he dugout rather than to third base. Another run scored and the wheels were officially off the cart.
Why would a cutoff person not be where they are supposed to be? Everyone knows that for the cutoff to serve its real purpose that the cutoff person needs to be lined up, right? Of course they do. But in the heat of the moment, things happen. Maybe the cutoff person got lazy, maybe the third base player forgot to line her up, maybe the outfielder lost her focus and just made a bad throw. No matter how it happened the evidence is overwhelming and right there on ESPN for everyone to see.
Practice your cutoffs, practice your relays and make sure that you drive home the importance of doing the little things well! Or pay the price in runs or losses.