- Eddie Matz
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IT'S A WIDELY accepted idea that the most difficult thing in all of sports is hitting a baseball. What's not widely accepted, at least not yet, is that exercising your oculars can make squaring up the rawhide -- less than 0.4 of a second after it leaves Matt Harvey's hand -- a bit easier. But that's changing as vision training creeps into MLB clubhouses from Boston to San Fran. (This season the Nationals dedicated an entire area of their training room to eye enhancement.) We picked the brain of Dr. Bill Harrison, a vision specialist who's worked with Carlos Beltran, Angel Pagan, Hunter Pence and Giancarlo Stanton, to understand how hitters can use this new understanding of "see the ball, hit the ball" to stare down a 95 mph heater. (Caution: Objects are faster than they appear.)
The new science of "see the ball"
Fire up your foveae
Analyze pitch paths all you want, but if a batter can't tell what is coming until the ball is halfway home, he's too late. That's why Harrison trains foveal vision more than peripheral; located in the center of the retinas, the foveae are what send sharp images to the brain. Only with foveal vision can a hitter detect seams, spins, color -- and pitch.
The new science of "hit the ball"
No time to think (or blink)
The foveae of a person with 20/20 vision can see a 1-inch letter at 60 feet. The average MLB player has 20/12 vision, so seeing a 3-inch ball sounds like a cinch ... except it travels from pitcher to plate in half the time needed to form a thought.
In ESPN The Magazine's Body issue, Eddie Matz writes about the new vision techniques hitters are using to stare down 95 mph pitches and improve their batting averages.