By Nick Dixon
The eyes of the batter are his greatest asset. The batter must "see and think" with the eyes. A batter can know the count, know the situation, know the pitcher, and know how to swing, but if their eyes are weak or fail them, they will more than like suffer defeat at the plate. How many times have we heard a successful batter say that "I am really seeing the ball right now" or an unsuccessful batter say "I am not picking the ball up. I am not seeing the ball". There are many factors that affect the ability of the batter ability to see the baseball.
Factors and conditions such as the pitchers motion, the amount of sunlight or field lighting, the angle of the sunlight as to the time of day and the background in center field all can hamper or affect the ability of the batter to see the baseball. These factors we have little ability to change. However, we can minimize their affects by improving the ability of the batter to focus or see the baseball.
How should a batter use the eyes during the batting process? Does a batter simply step in the batters box, tap the plate with the bat, and start looking for the ball? Or is there a recommended process or procedure of using the eyes during the batting process? What should the batter focus the eyes on prior to the pitch? If you ask 10 batters, most likely, you will receive 5 different answers. Batters can be taught a technique that can increase the effectiveness and sharpness of eyesight during the batting process.
Batters should use two types of eye focus when batting. Batters should start with a "soft eye focus" to ease tension on the eyes, and then go to a hard eye focus when the pitcher starts the pitching motion. The batter begins the soft focus by looking at an area around the pitchers head and shoulders. The batters may soft focus on the pitchers cap. As the pitcher begins the pitching motion, the batter when then converts to a hard eye focus on the pitching arm shoulder area and the pitchers release point. During this crucial segment of the swing, the batter uses an extreme hard eye focus technique to pick up the ball. Using the soft to hard focus technique, batters tend to not lose concentration, suffer eye strain, and get too up-tight.
Coaching point: good teams and players read and identify certain tendencies by pitchers. The opposing pitcher should be observed and studied to determine his "arm slot" and "ball release point". Players should be doing this "observation" from the dugout and in the on-deck circle. Knowing the delivery motion, timing, and release point of the opposing pitcher allows batters to "pick up" or see the ball much quicker out of the hand of the pitcher. The ability to see the ball earlier increases the chances for a successful at-bat.
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