By: Barry L. Seiller M.D., Kathleen Puchalski R.N.
Visual Fitness Institute
Baseball is a visually demanding sport and of course, pitchers need to see. When it comes to the sport of baseball and the impact of vision performance on field, most people think about batting. However, pitchers utilize a variety of visual skills which impact their concentration, fielding, and decision making while on the mound.
Pitcher’s are required to “see” the catcher’s signs and recognize signals from the dugout. Eyesight or “vision” is the foundation of your visual system; there are other factors that contribute to how athletes see.
Consider the other components of the visual system that all athletes possess – visual skills. Visual skills such as depth perception, efficient eye movements, focusing, peripheral vision, and hand eye coordination, are just as important as your eyesight. Visual skills are a critical portion of an athletes make up and frequently are what differentiate players of equal size, mechanics and motivation. It is a well known fact that superior athletes like the best hitters in baseball, have these superior visual skills. After all “the eyes lead the body”.
How do these visual skills and abilities help a pitcher?
At a recent pitching seminar statistical data was presented which reveals a trend that illustrates good pitchers posses good visual skills; and that there is a relationship with a better win-loss percentage.
Here’s how efficient visual skills help a pitcher on field:
A ball hit rapidly back at your head/body – you need excellent eye tracking skills, recognition, and depth perception to avoid or field the ball.
Controlling the running game
Good peripheral vision is necessary to watch the runner and continue to fixate on the plate.
There is a visual component to concentration. “Visual noise” or extraneous visual stimuli can distract pitchers causing them to process information inaccurately. A loss of concentration can impact pitch consistency.
Fielding a bunt requires efficient and accurate binocular eye movements to field the ball. The pitcher must shift his gaze quickly, assess and process visual information i.e. location of the ball, the speed of the runner, and the distance to the bag.
Visual skills and abilities can be evaluated, taught, trained and perfected. A number of Major/Minor League Teams as well as university programs have begun to evaluate and train these visual skills, utilizing new technology in order to improve their athletes’ performance on field. A new tool that is available to evaluate and train these visual skills is the Vizual Edge Performance Trainer™. This interactive CD-ROM vision performance program will operate on a desktop or laptop computer and was designed to offer easy access to this type of technology.