Baseball and Vision: What It Takes to Hit a Baseball

Posted by Dr. Alan Glazier on Thursday, August 5, 2010

Have you ever wondered how hand-eye coordination really works? Or what kind of impact vision has on sports performance? Dr. Alan Glazier takes a closer look at these questions and more in the context of baseball:

So you want to hit better?  Pete Rose was once asked how he hit so well. His answer: “See the ball, hit the ball”.

Obviously, vision plays a crucial role in one’s ability to hit, but what role it plays is not so obvious.  Seeing an object clearly, and viewing an object traveling nearly 100 mph while being able to guess its position in a millisecond are two different things and involve very different skills.  When viewing a baseball that is static, let’s say, sitting on a table top, the only “skill” needed to see it is visual acuity, or the ability of the eyes’ optics to focus the image properly.  For viewing an object in motion, clarity is important as well, but tracking the object of regard is important, as is the brain’s ability to accurately process the tracking information.

For viewing and connecting a bat in motion with a ball in motion (1) the image of the object of regard (the ball) has to fall clearly on the back of the eye (2) the eye needs to successfully track the image (3) the brain uses the tracking information to project the future position in space (over the plate) that the ball is likely to end up (4) hand-eye motor coordination needs to time and place the swing of the bat to coincide with the tracking system projection of where the ball is headed (5) estimates need to be made of where the plate is in relationship to the pitch using peripheral vision cues (6) speed is estimated by the rate at which the image of the ball is transmitted across the retina and (7) depth perception information is used to adjust each of these calculations.   Looking at things from this perspective, the act of hitting a ball, even a 40 mph pitch, seems visually statistically impossible, yet Major League batters connect with the ball often more than 2.5 times out of 10 on pitches exceeding 80 mph all the time!

The visual skills that are used to be a better hitter can be enhanced.  The first step is to have a comprehensive eye exam including a binocular vision evaluation to make sure you have basic eye functions that will enable you to successfully track a ball.  Next, as with any exercise, you can hone your visual skills through repetitive actions – get to the batting cages.  The next step would be to find a developmental and/or sports vision specialist, usually an optometrist, who can engage you in certain visual tasks that train the visual abilities described in the previous paragraph.  Many professional baseball players are involved in visual training programs. More information on hitting a baseball is available in my other post on hitting.

Courtesy of Dr. Alan Glazier of Shady Grove Eye and Vision Care; Optometrists, Ophthalmologists and Opticians working together to help you see better.  Serving the Rockville, Potomac and Gaithersburg Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC for over 40 years. 

For more information about the connection between contact lenses and sports, including information about money saving rebates, visit MyContactSports.com.

 

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