An overview of important vision skills for Baseball, broken down by position

Baseball

With its wide range of positions, and with a small ball, baseball requires the use of a wide range of vision skills, whose importance will vary to some extent depending on one’s position.

                                                                                       

     Batter                       Pitcher                    Outfielder                  Catcher                 Infielder

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Vision Skills Required for the Various Position

Batter

As anyone familiar with baseball knows, the batter’s job is to hit the ball into play (preferably not directly to any opposing player) and enable his team to score runs. In order to accomplish this task, he has to be able to hit a ball only a couple inches in diameter which is being thrown toward him from just over 60 feet away at speeds sometimes exceeding 100 miles per hour. To make matters worse, the ball can have various types of movement as it speeds toward him, and the time a batter has to react and decide whether or not to swing is measured in milliseconds.

Important skills for a batter include:

  • Hand-eye coordination: Vital to be able to quickly swing the bat to hit the speeding ball at the right moment.
  • Eye tracking and movement precision: The batter can’t hit the ball if he can’t properly track it as it approaches.
  • Contrast sensitivity: In order to effectively track the ball’s approach, the batter must be able to see the ball against whatever is behind it.
  • Visual reaction time: Of course, nothing else matters if the batter isn’t able to react quickly enough to the visual stimuli of the approaching ball.
  • Dynamic visual acuity: This skill gives us the ability to track objects while they are in motion, so it is vital as the batter follows the ball’s approach so he can decide whether or not to swing.
  • Depth perception: Another important skill for a batter, increased depth perception will enable him to more quickly and accurately assess a moving object’s speed.

Pitcher

Pitchers are the main enemy of the batter, as they attempt to get them out either via a strikeout or a hit right to a fielder. While the pitcher’s objective is very different, however, visual skills are also vital to their success as well. The pitcher must throw the baseball with pinpoint accuracy to the small target of the catcher’s mitt, and at the same time, make it as difficult as possible for the batter to hit.

Important skills for a pitcher include:

  • Visualization: Being able to visualize yourself doing something does help you actually making it happen, and, with pitching being a complex art, it is very helpful in maintaining pinpoint control.
  • Hand-eye coordination: The importance of hand-eye coordination for a pitcher is obvious; he needs to be able to throw the ball with the right amount of power and movement to get it to the plate and do what he wants it to. Additionally, since the pitcher sometimes also has to field the ball, this skill has other applications.
  • Vision-balance integration: When a pitcher throws the ball, the entire body is involved in the motion, and they end up standing only on one leg. Improved balance will help his pitch delivery, and give them a better chance to quickly recover and react should the ball be hit his way.
  • Enhanced peripheral awareness: A less obvious vision skill for a pitcher, peripheral vision enables them to better keep track of any runners on base, so he can prevent them from attempting to steal a base--and to potentially pick off a runner. Better peripheral vision is also always helpful for fielding in general.

Outfielder

Outfielders have a lot to manage. They’re responsible for dealing with anything hit into the outfield, whether in the air or on the ground. Especially with fly balls, there is a lot that goes into tracking it and making the catch. An outfielder also has to throw the ball back into the infield, often quickly and with accuracy.

Important skills for an outfielder include:

  • Contrast sensitivity: Weather conditions can vary during a baseball game, so being able to pick out the small, flying, white ball against the sky no matter the conditions is extremely important for an outfielder.
  • Eye tracking and movement precision: The ability to accurately track the moving ball as it flies through the air on its way down is obviously extremely important for an outfielder.
  • Hand-eye coordination: Another obviously important skill, improved hand-eye coordination gives an outfielder a better chance of making those tough (occasionally diving) catches, and throwing the ball back into the infield accurately.
  • Depth perception and distance estimation: More than having to merely catch the ball, an outfielder must make split-second decisions regarding the path they need to take to make the catch. This requires an advanced ability to rapidly determine distances, and can make the difference between a spectacular catch or a base hit.
  • Dynamic visual acuity: This is another skill which enables the outfielder to track the flying ball while it, and he, is moving.

Catcher

The catcher occupies a unique role on a baseball team, with his primary role being to coordinate pitching strategy with the pitcher, and to catch (or at least block) everything the pitcher throws. In addition, the catcher has to keep an eye on any baserunners, so he is ready to act if one tries to steal a base.

Important skills for a catcher include:

  • Enhanced peripheral awareness: While his main focus has to be on the pitcher and the 90+ mile per hour baseball speeding his way, a catcher must always keep an eye on any opposing runners on base. Enhancing peripheral vision will increase a catcher’s ability to spot attempted base steals, giving him extra precious moments to try and throw the runner out.
  • Hand-eye coordination: While this skill is important for every player on the field, only the catcher has to routinely catch pitches that can exceed 90 or even 100 miles per hour. If he fails to catch the thrown pitch, which, in addition to any planned movement on the part of the pitcher, can move further if a mistake is made, it can be disastrous, so quick reaction time is essential.
  • Eye tracking and movement precision: This is another skill which greatly helps a catcher track the oncoming pitch.
  • Visual reaction time: Much of what a catcher does requires split-second reactions to visual stimuli, be it the incoming pitch or a baserunner attempting to steal. Improving this skill will give a catcher the edge required to become an even bigger defensive asset to his team.
  • Focusing: Improved focusing ability allows a player to do tasks that require quickly shifting between near vision, such as catching the thrown pitch and pulling it out of the glove in preparation to throw, to far vision, such as making an accurate throw to catch the runner trying to steal a base.

Infielder

An infielder’s tasks require extremely high levels of precision and quick reaction times, whether to field a sharply hit ground ball or line drive, or to make an accurate throw to a base.

Important skills for an infielder include:

  • Depth perception and distance estimation: With so little time to decide what to do, an enhanced ability to judge how far the ball is can go a long way toward ensuring an infielder can get to it and make the play.
  • Focusing: Getting to the ball is only part of the task. An infielder must also be able to rapidly shift from focusing on near vision work, such as cleanly fielding a ground ball, to far vision work, such as making an accurate throw to first base.
  • Hand-eye coordination: It goes without saying that elite hand-eye coordination is required for an infielder to cleanly field ground balls moving at very high speeds, and to be able to smoothly get the ball to his throwing hand and make accurate throws.
  • Enhanced peripheral awareness: Depending on where the ball is hit, the infielder’s first glimpse of it might be via his peripheral vision. If his peripheral vision is at an optimum level, it can give him an extra moment with which to react and get to the ball. Peripheral vision also helps when an infielder needs to hold an opposing runner on base, as well as being aware of where the base, and other players on the infield, are.
Dr. Ikeda cartoon

Up Your Game

In one recent study, it was found that 77% of major league baseball players had vision greater than 20/20, but there is more to vision than this.

Another study, done with the University of Cincinnati baseball team, showed that after only six weeks of vision training, there were drastic improvements among the players. The team batting average rose by 34 points, a greater improvement than that of other teams in the league, while errors decreased by 15%. In a very competitive league, this level of improvement can mean the difference between a mediocre season and a championship one.

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Dr. Ikeda

Dr. Ikeda, FCOVD, DPNAP, is a leading optometrist in the field of neuro optometric rehabilitation and developmental optometry. He has made profound contributions to the field over the years and uses these expertise to provide the highest quality of eye care to his patients. He was Past-President of the Optometric Extension Program Foundation (OEPF) and of the Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation Association (NORA). He received the “Founding Fathers Medal” for his continued service to NORA and he was recognized as “Physician of the Year” by the Rehabilitation Nurses Society. He is a clinical associate professor of the Western University of Health Sciences College of Optometry and was inducted as a Distinguished Practitioner into the National Academies of Practice (Optometry Academy).

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  • I haven't actually used the optometrist side, so my review is limited to the vision therapy offered.  This office was recommended by my occupational therapist for the treatment of my double vision following a stroke.


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  • Love this location. I had a brain injury accident from day one one. All the team make you feel you still important and hope in the horizon after when the medical system fell you miserably. Dr. Ikeda very professional and very understanding about your issue. Two tombs up.


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  • My husband and I were immediately impressed with Dr Ikeda. I was hit by a car while cycling which caused broken bones and three brain injuries. The brain injuries caused double vision. Dr. Ikeda examined my eyes and got me started on vision therapy with his occupational therapist who specializes in vision therapy.  She (Chris) is absolutely great.  I am impressed with the array of tools used to help recover my binocular vision.  I am doing things I never thought were possible (balance boards etc).  Chris pushes me and keeps me motivated. I really enjoy my sessions with her.  The office staff is always friendly and they have a wonderful appointment reminder tool that makes it easy to keep my calendar up to date. I am happy the rehab center at Little Co. of Mary recommended them!!


    Teresa S.

  • The Vision Therapy is handled in a separate office through a different door from the shared waiting room. Chris, the vision therapist, has a wide and varied assortment of tools, equipment and resources to best evaluate and treat most vision issues. After just a few visits, my double vision became easier to control, using exercises developed during the therapy process. It was time well-spent.


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  • I have been coming here since I can remember. I love it here. The staff is so amazing and nice. They explain everything they gonna do and never make you feel rushed. Dr. Ikeda has always been my doctor and I would never want another one. He is the doctor for my whole family and is always asking how everyone is doing. I am also so crazy about picking out my frames and have to try so many and each person who helps me take the time and lets me try them all on. I would never want to go anywhere else! I definitely would recommend this office to anyone looking for a great eye doctor.


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