Hitting a baseball has been described as one of the most difficult challenges in sport. Trying to hit a round ball, that is travelling at speeds in excess of 90 mph, with a round bat! It takes approximately 2/10ths of a second to make your swing, which doesn't leave the batter with much time to make a decision. Ted Williams once said that he could see the spin on the ball from the time it left the pitcher's hand. That's great dynamic acuity!
Most coaches will tell you that the most important skill is learning to keep your eye on the ball. The better you are at following the ball to the point of contact, the better and more consistent a hitter you will be.
The following is a comprehensive outline of the most important dynamic visual skills for baseball.
To be a consistent batter, you need to be able to judge the distance, the speed and the revolution of the ball, preferably as it leaves the pitcher's hand. This requires good depth perception. This skill must also be well developed in outfielders in order to consistently judge fly balls, make overhead catches and throw the ball accurately.
Eye Focusing and Tracking
Difficulty with tracking is usually associated with poor eye focusing and can cause blurred vision, fatigue and headaches. Poor eye teaming can cause your eyes to misjudge the precise distance of the ball, which in turn will cause your brain to misjudge the correct distance. If you perceive the ball closer, you will swing early or throw the ball short. If you perceive it farther, you will swing late or throw the ball long.
When hitting the ball, it is important to have your dominant eye facing the pitcher's mound. This is the eye that will primarily be 'signalling' the brain with the information that you need to judge the distance, the speed and the revolution of the ball as it comes toward you. If the dominant eye is not quite optimized, it can lead to a shifting of the estimation of distance and cause you to swing too early or too late.
Hitting and catching the ball requires precise coordination between the visual and action systems.
An important skill for all players: the catcher must focus to catch the pitch, while using his or her peripheral awareness to see runners on base; the pitcher must use peripheral awareness to monitor runners, while focusing on the batter; batters must focus on the pitch, while being aware of the movement of fielders and runners; fielders must initially pick up the ball in their periphery before being able to track it into their glove.
Lapses in concentration leads to errors on the field; fumbled catches, stolen bases, missed fly/ground balls.
Visual Reaction Time
Visual information will influence the athlete's decision making on the field and the faster that he/she is able to process what is happening, the faster they will react to the play.
Typical Symptoms That May Be Related to Poor Dynamic Visual Skills:
Difficulty judging a fly ball.
Difficulty with overhead catching or tracking the ball.
Difficulty throwing the ball accurately.
Tired even though you're in good physical shape.
Difficulty adjusting focus from far to near or vice-versa.
Poor eye-hand coordination.
Difficulty reading the pitch.
Blurred vision or headaches.
Slow to react to fly balls, line drives or grounders.