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Baseball vision: When 20-20 eyesight just won’t cut it


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#1 OttoC


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Posted 21 March 2012 - 07:47 AM

Brian MacPherson of the Providence wrote an interesting article the other day about baseball player's eyesight. He starts out by saying that if you have 20-20 eyesight, yours is better than half the American population...and that won't be close to good enough to be a Major-League batter. The limit of human vision is around 20-8 and the average ballplayers is around 20-12 (or corrected to 20-12). Players use contact lenses to get their vision down to 20-12 and they do various eye exercises to optimize and strengthen vision (there is an interesting bit about Manny Ramirez and his exercises). Laser eye surgery can only correct to about 20-17 and "it brings with it the risks of halo or glare effects," so it's not the preferred way to go for ballplayers. Another intersting point is that "Red Sox ophthalmologists start their work with players as early as they can, even visiting the team’s Dominican program to work with players who are 16 or 17 years old — years away from making it to the major leagues."

http://www.providenc...v2.214ff54.html

#2 Carmine

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 10:33 AM

Just to stir the pot, why aren't these 20-12 contacts considered a PED?

#3 Brianish

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 01:02 PM

Just to stir the pot, why aren't these 20-12 contacts considered a PED?


Because they're not a D. Are you done?

#4 MalzoneExpress


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Posted 21 March 2012 - 01:08 PM

Because they're not a D.


They are not a Drug, but they are a Device. But cleats and sunglasses are devices that also enhance performance, and no one in their right mind complains about them.

#5 Brianish

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 01:11 PM

Also bats and gloves.

I wonder how long before the sort of vision training techniques discussed here start making their way down to college and high school. It seems like the sort of thing that would be more effective if started earlier.

#6 Adrian's Dome

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 01:12 PM

They are not a Drug, but they are a Device. But cleats and sunglasses are devices that also enhance performance, and no one in their right mind complains about them.


Not to mention, it's, you know, eyesight. You could never reasonably make the argument that a player shouldn't be able to wear corrective lenses and should have to play with his limited vision. I put it in the same category as cleats, sunglasses, ankle tape, batting gloves, knee braces, etc.

#7 Brianish

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 03:57 PM

Honestly, I've wondered for a long time how central this kind of work is in the development process. Is it just something we don't hear about that often, or do organizations ignore it? It seems like, especially with the advent of strike zone judgment as a major baseball skill, it should be a large part of a player's minor league experience.

#8 terrynever


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Posted 21 March 2012 - 06:18 PM

They are not a Drug, but they are a Device. But cleats and sunglasses are devices that also enhance performance, and no one in their right mind complains about them.

Think about how improved equipment has changed golf over the past 30 years. All of our sports have been enhanced by technology. I'm trying to think who was the first MLB player to wear glasses on the field. Dom DiMaggio was one of the first of the so-called modern era. Earl Torgeson was another.

#9 OttoC


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Posted 21 March 2012 - 07:12 PM

George "Specs" Toporcer, who played for the Cardinals in the 1920s, was the first non-pitcher to wear glasses in major-league game. Until that that time only pitchers dared to wear them. The first pitcher was Will "Whoop-La" White, who played for the Boston Red Caps (NL) in 1876. I don't know if he wore them while playing in the National Association (which preceded the NL). Clint Courtney was the first catcher to wear them (1951-61 for six AL teams).

#10 Carmine

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 11:21 PM

Because they're not a D. Are you done?

No, I'm not done. You've missed my point entirely. I'm not advocating contact lenses should become illegal. What I'm saying is there is a huge double standard in MLB, and I'm not the first to bring this up. Jayson Stark wrote about something similar when Rick Ankiel got busted for HGH.

So,
Explain to me why it is that MLB pretends to be so concerned about a players' long-term health that they ban illegal substances, yet have no issue with players chewing tobacco during games, much less smoking cigarette's or drinking in the clubhouse.

Explain to me why a player can't use PED's, but he can get a cortisone shot (which suppresses the immune system) to get over a nagging injury.

And to deal with the topic at hand, explain to me how contacts are any less of a performance enhancer than HGH in baseball.

MLB only cares about a players health when it comes to "drugs". But then again, this is a moot topic. Drugs aren't illegal because of their health effects or because they're performance enhancers anyway...

#11 Sampo Gida

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 11:56 PM

Glasses, Contacts, maple bats, better gloves and balls, improved lighting, training and travel are all legitimate performance enhancers.

I think laser surgery to improve eyesight might is probably a grey area, but nobody really questions it legitimacy (like TJ surgery and orthobiologics to speed healing).

MLB only cares about a players health when it comes to "drugs". But then again, this is a moot topic. Drugs aren't illegal because of their health effects or because they're performance enhancers anyway...


MLB does not care about players health, not much anyways. In 1998 it was reported (The Yankee Years by Torre and Heyman) that MLB gave a presentation to the owners on the benefits of steroids on performance. PED's are tested because of MLB's and MLB PA's fears Congress would step in and legislate it.

I look forward to seeing what steps will be taken on the next performance enhancer which is gene doping. It's still in it's infancy, but athletes have been looking for an edge since greek olympians started eating sheep testicles for their testosterone.

http://www.bionews.o.../page_54489.asp

I suppose it would take A-Rod hitting 40 HR a year until he was 50 before anyone in the MLB FO would even suspect it w/o Congress being involved.

#12 chris719

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Posted 22 March 2012 - 06:31 PM

LASIK / LASEK / PRK etc are not performance enhancing because they do not actually improve your best corrected visual acuity (BCVA). In many cases, surgery will decrease your best corrected acuity and does have a track record of causing issues with night vision, halos, glare, and starbursts in non-ideal candidates. Most people end up trading for the convenience.

Of course, most people don't even notice because they are not "fully corrected" by their glasses or contacts anyway. Conventional glasses or soft contacts can only correct first order aberrations. Rigid lenses would be the best but many cannot tolerate them unless they have an extremely skilled fitter.

#13 Carmine

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Posted 22 March 2012 - 10:53 PM

MLB does not care about players health, not much anyways. In 1998 it was reported (The Yankee Years by Torre and Heyman) that MLB gave a presentation to the owners on the benefits of steroids on performance. PED's are tested because of MLB's and MLB PA's fears Congress would step in and legislate it.

I suppose it would take A-Rod hitting 40 HR a year until he was 50 before anyone in the MLB FO would even suspect it w/o Congress being involved.

Exactly. The U.S. Government is owned almost entirely by the pharmaceutical industry, who pays off and misleads our politicians on drug issues. Steroids, like marijuana, are competition for pharmaceutical companies. There are a number of ways anabolic steroids are beneficial. Bone growth, appetite, male puberty, treating cancers/AIDS, etc.

But you know, this is a stupid topic and one that is easily excused with a cheap, demeaning one-liner. I digress.

#14 SumnerH


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Posted 23 March 2012 - 02:05 PM

Steroids, like marijuana, are competition for pharmaceutical companies.


http://www.pfizer.co...estosterone.jsp

Pfizer is the largest manufacturer of steroids in the US. Steroids are a product of pharmaceutical companies, not an alternative to them.

#15 Trautwein's Degree


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Posted 24 March 2012 - 05:36 AM

No, I'm not done. You've missed my point entirely. I'm not advocating contact lenses should become illegal. What I'm saying is there is a huge double standard in MLB, and I'm not the first to bring this up. Jayson Stark wrote about something similar when Rick Ankiel got busted for HGH.

So,
Explain to me why it is that MLB pretends to be so concerned about a players' long-term health that they ban illegal substances, yet have no issue with players chewing tobacco during games, much less smoking cigarette's or drinking in the clubhouse.

Explain to me why a player can't use PED's, but he can get a cortisone shot (which suppresses the immune system) to get over a nagging injury.

And to deal with the topic at hand, explain to me how contacts are any less of a performance enhancer than HGH in baseball.

MLB only cares about a players health when it comes to "drugs". But then again, this is a moot topic. Drugs aren't illegal because of their health effects or because they're performance enhancers anyway...

Your teachers left you behind.

MLB doesn't care about the health of its players. They did nothing about steroids until Congress got involved. Why? The anti trust exemption is their golden goose.

Congress will never investigate MLB for contact lenses. Ergo, players can wear them.


#16 Brianish

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Posted 24 March 2012 - 08:31 AM

No, I'm not done. You've missed my point entirely. I'm not advocating contact lenses should become illegal. What I'm saying is there is a huge double standard in MLB, and I'm not the first to bring this up. Jayson Stark wrote about something similar when Rick Ankiel got busted for HGH.

So,
Explain to me why it is that MLB pretends to be so concerned about a players' long-term health that they ban illegal substances, yet have no issue with players chewing tobacco during games, much less smoking cigarette's or drinking in the clubhouse.

Explain to me why a player can't use PED's, but he can get a cortisone shot (which suppresses the immune system) to get over a nagging injury.

MLB only cares about a players health when it comes to "drugs". But then again, this is a moot topic. Drugs aren't illegal because of their health effects or because they're performance enhancers anyway...


None of this has anything to do with contact lenses. You are demanding we explain to you why MLB treats apples differently than oranges.

And to deal with the topic at hand, explain to me how contacts are any less of a performance enhancer than HGH in baseball.


They are a performance enhancer, but they're not drugs. They do nothing to change the body chemistry of players who use them. Like everyone else has already told you, the issue has nothing to do with health. But even if it did, contact lenses don't threaten health.


I sure do love having these pointless conversations, but in the meantime I'm actually interested in the topic at hand. IE has there been any published research on the prevalence and/or importance of vision training in player development? And if not, are there educated guesses to be made?

Edit - Most of what google turns up is advertisement for eye-training programs, rather than information about how professionals use them. I don't suppose anyone has access to sports medicine databases?

Edited by Brianish, 24 March 2012 - 08:45 AM.


#17 DeJesus Built My Hotrod


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Posted 24 March 2012 - 03:22 PM

LASIK / LASEK / PRK etc are not performance enhancing because they do not actually improve your best corrected visual acuity (BCVA). In many cases, surgery will decrease your best corrected acuity and does have a track record of causing issues with night vision, halos, glare, and starbursts in non-ideal candidates. Most people end up trading for the convenience.

Of course, most people don't even notice because they are not "fully corrected" by their glasses or contacts anyway. Conventional glasses or soft contacts can only correct first order aberrations. Rigid lenses would be the best but many cannot tolerate them unless they have an extremely skilled fitter.


Best post of the thread. Thank you for this.

#18 santadevil

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Posted 26 March 2012 - 06:28 PM

Well, I wonder if breathing better should also be considered a performance enhancer?

Carlos Beltran pays for Jon Niese's nose job.

#19 24JoshuaPoint


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Posted 27 March 2012 - 02:30 PM

They are a performance enhancer, but they're not drugs. They do nothing to change the body chemistry of players who use them. Like everyone else has already told you, the issue has nothing to do with health. But even if it did, contact lenses don't threaten health.


As stated above, contact lenses are not a performance enhancer. Whatever your eyesight is naturally; that is what you are stuck with and can only get worse. If you have say, 20-20 vision and I have 20-15 vision and we both look through the same pair of binoculars, my visual acuity is better. (From what i understand). I can never get better than 20-15, only try to correct with various techniques to stay there.

Glasses, Contacts, maple bats, better gloves and balls, improved lighting, training and travel are all legitimate performance enhancers.


Well, this is why MLB attempts to level the playing field by regulating bats, balls, travel, # of night games, gloves, etc. Hence our need for splits and corrected park stats. Glasses and contacts only make you better if you are a team that wears contacts playing a team that has some level of blindness and does not; in which case they are idiots.

#20 Brianish

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Posted 27 March 2012 - 03:12 PM

As stated above, contact lenses are not a performance enhancer. Whatever your eyesight is naturally; that is what you are stuck with and can only get worse. If you have say, 20-20 vision and I have 20-15 vision and we both look through the same pair of binoculars, my visual acuity is better. (From what i understand). I can never get better than 20-15, only try to correct with various techniques to stay there.


I was speaking purely in the sense of "you will perform better with them than without."

Can we all just agree it was a stupid fucking question and talk about what's actually going on in the article?

Edited by Brianish, 27 March 2012 - 03:12 PM.


#21 OttoC


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Posted 27 March 2012 - 04:01 PM

As stated above, contact lenses are not a performance enhancer. Whatever your eyesight is naturally; that is what you are stuck with and can only get worse. If you have say, 20-20 vision and I have 20-15 vision and we both look through the same pair of binoculars, my visual acuity is better. (From what i understand). I can never get better than 20-15, only try to correct with various techniques to stay there.
...

I wear eyeglasses (although I have worn contact lenses in the past). My eyesight without my eyeglasses is worse than 20/500. With them, it corrects to 20/20. Would you prefer to share THE highway with me when I am not wearing them or when I am wearing them?

As for eye surgery today, when someone has cataract operations, the lens can be replaced with a corrective lens and the patient can choose whether to correct for distance vision or near vision.

#22 TheGoldenGreek33

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Posted 27 March 2012 - 05:27 PM

Can we all just agree it was a stupid fucking question and talk about what's actually going on in the article?

Why? So you can beat your chest and say you've won at the internet by picking on someone who posed an opinion different than that of conventional wisdom? You've still missed Carmine's point, and it's one that has been talked about ad nauseum between mainstream media and bloggers alike since Congress got involved with PED's in baseball. You disagree with it, that's fine. A lot of people do. But you can't trash his opinion on the way out of your digression. That's bullshit.

#23 Brianish

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Posted 27 March 2012 - 05:46 PM

Why? So you can beat your chest and say you've won at the internet by picking on someone who posed an opinion different than that of conventional wisdom?


Yes, that's why.

As for the rest, I'm pretty sure I and about a half dozen other people have illustrated that the premise doesn't even begin to hold up. At best, he's stirring the pot for kicks. At worst, he's demonstrating a fundamental misunderstanding of a pretty simple concept. In the meantime, the actual point of the thread has completely fallen by the wayside. Frankly, I find it a hell of a lot more interesting than an argument that's less an argument than several people trying to explain to him why things that aren't drugs aren't treated like drugs.

#24 24JoshuaPoint


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Posted 28 March 2012 - 02:47 PM

I wear eyeglasses (although I have worn contact lenses in the past). My eyesight without my eyeglasses is worse than 20/500. With them, it corrects to 20/20. Would you prefer to share THE highway with me when I am not wearing them or when I am wearing them?

As for eye surgery today, when someone has cataract operations, the lens can be replaced with a corrective lens and the patient can choose whether to correct for distance vision or near vision.


I guess i'm missing the point of the thread/article. Some people are suggesting that correcting their vision BACK to their normal god given vision is performance enhancing. It's not. It's simply just restoring them to what they were born with. These guys are freaks of nature which is what the article is discussing. You can't make it in major league baseball if you don't have better than normal vision. Which is one reason of many why it's hard to reach that level. But they aren't altering their vision to be something it never was. Was it my fault that i had better vision than the other kids in my shooting class at camp? Did i enhance my own eyesight? No. Am i performance enhancing my vision now with contacts? No.

If you choose not to wear your eyeglasses at night while driving it's just a bad mistake, but wearing them only brings you back to a level playing field; not a higher one.

ed- Maybe i'm stuck on the semantics of 'Performance Enhancing'. To me, it means doing something to myself outside of my natural ability that makes me better than someone else.

Edited by 24JoshuaPoint, 28 March 2012 - 02:56 PM.


#25 sittingstill

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Posted 28 March 2012 - 03:14 PM

When I toured Progressive Field in Cleveland, we happened to hit the batting cages while their "vision coach" was there, and he gave us a quick impromptu talk about what he does with the players and showed us the I trac system. Pretty amazing stuff. I had to take his word for it that there were numbers on the tennis balls until he took one out to show us!

I wish I had taken better notes on David Sheinberg's presentation at last year's Saber Seminar (I got lazy, planning to review it from video later) but he had a lot of interesting information about how fast the brain could process information--e.g. how much time it took to recognize what a pitch was, make the decision to swing or not swing, and then execute the swing if chosen. IIRC he suggested that they weren't sure if people could learn to be faster in the recognition phase, but it did seem to be possible with practice to make the decision faster once recognition had occurred. It seems plausible to me that if you're not a neuroscientist, you might assume a system like I trac is improving your vision when it's really giving you practice in making your brain work faster after you've seen something.

#26 OttoC


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Posted 28 March 2012 - 05:32 PM

The American Optometric Association notes:

20/20 does not necessarily mean perfect vision. 20/20 vision only indicates the sharpness or clarity of vision at a distance. There are other important vision skills, including peripheral awareness or side vision, eye coordination, depth perception, focusing ability and color vision that contribute to your overall visual ability.

20/20 does not necessarily mean perfect vision. 20/20 vision only indicates the sharpness or clarity of vision at a distance. There are other important vision skills, including peripheral awareness or side vision, eye coordination, depth perception, focusing ability and color vision that contribute to your overall visual ability.

They also list and explain Important Visual Skills for Sports, which should be of interest to anyone pursuing this thread. Some of the things they list can be improved by eye exercises.Visual reaction time is very important. On average, it takes a college-aged person 190 milliseconds to react to visual stimulus. As that person gets into his late 20s, the reaction time will get longer. Unfortunately, the batter still only have about 375 milliseconds to react to a 90-mph fastball.

Regardless of your viewpoint on athlete's enhancing their vision with contact lenses, using eye exercises to enhance your vision is no different than lifting weights, running sprints, etc., to better your performance. As for contact lenses being artificial enhancements, should sunglasses for fielders also be banned?

#27 Sampo Gida

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Posted 28 March 2012 - 07:10 PM

The American Optometric Association notes:

20/20 does not necessarily mean perfect vision. 20/20 vision only indicates the sharpness or clarity of vision at a distance. There are other important vision skills, including peripheral awareness or side vision, eye coordination, depth perception, focusing ability and color vision that contribute to your overall visual ability.


You could use the same argument that steroids only help make you stronger and your muscles bigger and improve recovery time, but there are other important skills involved in overall hitting ability that are not enhanced.

Laser surgery to enhance vision is widely accepted since it is done by medical professionals for the public at large who simply want to do away with the inconvenience of contacts or glasses. Steroid users simply want to use FDA approved drugs (for certain medical issues) to spend less time in the gym weight training to get the desired strength.

#28 OttoC


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Posted 28 March 2012 - 08:33 PM

You could use the same argument that steroids only help make you stronger and your muscles bigger and improve recovery time, but there are other important skills involved in overall hitting ability that are not enhanced.

Laser surgery to enhance vision is widely accepted since it is done by medical professionals for the public at large who simply want to do away with the inconvenience of contacts or glasses. Steroid users simply want to use FDA approved drugs (for certain medical issues) to spend less time in the gym weight training to get the desired strength.


I'm not really trying to argue one way or the other but I do think any legal avenue should be accepted. Steroids in this country are a prescription medicine, I believe, and I don't think speeding up gym weight training is one of the medical necessities.

As for laser surgery to enhance vision for baseball players, the original article implies that it isn't acceptable for baseball players because it only gains improvement to 20/17 and it also causes a problem with glare.