One of the most overlooked plays in baseball is the relay play to throw a runner out at home trying to score from first base on a ball hit into the gap. You see it so many times in world series highlights and that single play happens to be one of the most important plays of the series. While it is worked on tirelessly at the youth and high school level I don’t see it done properly or as efficiently as it should be.
Once the ball makes its way to the wall here are all the things that must happen all before that runner on first runs 270-feet (90-foot bases):
- The outfielder must play the ball cleanly off the wall (if ball is not moving the outfielder must pick the ball up with the bare hand)
- Make a quick and accurate throw to the infield
- The infielder must catch, exchange, and make an accurate throw to the catcher
- The catcher must catch the ball and apply the tag before the runner touches home plate.
Remember, all of that has to happen in 10-11.5 seconds (average time from contact of the ball to tag at the plate in MLB on plays at the plate on 20 different relays from the 2018 season) which takes precision and efficiency from all players involved.
The outfielder is the one who starts the relay, the outcome of the play usually is directly correlated to how quickly they can get the ball off the ground and into the infielder’s glove. A good rule of thumb to tell your players is that, on average, every step the outfielder takes with the ball in his hand, the base runner will be two to three steps closer to home. Efficiency in your movements is important!