July 27, 2020 - What kind of statement is that? How can a man who is writing about baseball and softball in general, and about hitting in particular, ever make a claim so outlandish? The batter never “sees” the ball?
Well, I can. I did. It’s true, and I’ll prove it to you. Don’t just “listen” to what you are about to read, “hear” the words and “learn” from them.
As you and I journey through the next few minutes, I’ll ask you to play a few “games” with me. All I’ll ask is that you concentrate and complete each game as fully as you can.
First, sit down in a chair and focus your eyes on an object, about fifteen or twenty feet in front of you. Do not take your eyes off that object. Next, extend both hands out to the side of the object in your focus. Wiggle your fingers. Do you “see” them? You are probably saying to yourself “sure, I can see them. They’re right in front of me.”
Sorry, but you’re wrong. You may think you see them, but your fingers are in your peripheral vision, not your focused vision. “Peripheral,” means something on the edge of, or outside of. Your fingers were actually blurry to you, right?
Technically, factually, and truthfully, man can actually “See” ONLY objects in his eyes’ immediate focus. Everything else is in the periphery of his vision, therefore, a blur.
Next, while you are still resting comfortably, focus your eyes on an object on your extreme left, then very slowly move your eyes across the room to your far right. You can see everything very clearly, right? No problem.
Now, focus your eyes on that same object again, but this time move your eyes across the room as quickly as you can. Totally different? Sure. This time, you “saw” nothing at all---just a blur.
Another test. Hold a handout in front of you, as far away from your eyes as possible, your palm facing you. Very, very slowly, bring your hand closer to your face, keeping your focus on a particular finger. Your focus was spot on, wasn’t it? You could “see” that finger very clearly.
OK, same test, but this time bring your finger to your face as quickly as possible. How did that go for you? You actually “saw” very little, didn’t you? Again---nothing but a blur.
Just about this time you are asking yourself “what’s his point? Where is he going with all this stuff?”
Now we will begin to dig more deeply into these things you have been reading, and you will come to understand more clearly exactly what your eyes can and cannot do.
A question for you: How fast in miles per hour do you think your eyes can move, left to right, or up and down? Twenty miles per hour? Thirty? More? Less?
Would it surprise you to learn that our eyes can move in their sockets between five and eight miles per hour? Those numbers were a noted ophthalmologist’s estimate, not mine. He is the eye professional.
If you have been in baseball or softball long enough, you have heard these words many times from your coach “watch the ball all the way into the catcher’s mitt.” Probably much like you, when I was playing, I never gave those words a second thought. It has been many years since I heard those orders from a coach or uttered them to one of my own players.
A bit of sound advice to any coach who may be reading this breaking news---in baseball or in ladies’ softball, watching the ball into the catcher’s mitt cannot be done---by anyone---ever.
Just picture a baseball passing through the strike zone at ninety miles per hour. With eye movement of eight miles per hour, who could hope to track a ball through the zone? Nobody who ever lived, nobody. A player would be fortunate to see even a blur. Our eyes simply cannot move quickly enough to make that adjustment.
A very interesting example: Spectators sitting in the front row of the stands at the Indy 500 speed race can easily follow the progress of the cars as they are moving in the far reaches of the track, because at such a distance their eyes are moving slowly, right to left. But, when those cars pass right in front of them, those cars become nothing but a blur of colors. Cars and drivers are not in focus to anyone so close to them. Eye focus on vehicles traveling at speeds of close to 200 miles per hour is impossible.
The focusing of our eyes are controlled basically by the cornea and the lens, about seventy-five percent by the cornea, and the remainder by the lens.
Let’s return for a minute to the test when you extended your hand from your face in one swift movement. During that transition of what, a half-second, you lost your focus. Why? It’s simple. Our eyes cannot change their focus instantly. It takes time, however short, for them to adjust to changing distances.
The bottom line is this: If you lost the focus of your hand from four feet to one foot in one-half second, you would have no chance of focusing on a pitcher releasing the ball from sixty feet, then continuing that focus on a much smaller ball traveling to the batter’s box in approximately the same short half-second. Your eyes would be following a well-defined blur.
Many other sports are extremely similar. The hockey goalie is a prime example. A hard slap shot approaching him at one hundred miles per hour, and all he can hope to see is the blur of the puck, definitely not the puck itself. The same for tennis. A serve that often travels at one hundred-twenty-five miles per hour? The defender is truly “seeing” a blur coming at him or her, and they are reacting to that blur, not a more discernable soft-tossed tennis ball.
On the “flip” side, you Slo-pitch softball players can take comfort knowing that any pitch coming to you is in focus all the way from the pitcher’s hand to the batter’s box. Aren’t you the lucky ones?
But, as I stated in the intro, in baseball, and in lady’s softball, the batter never truly “sees” the ball once it leaves the pitcher’s hand. What you have just read, you can take to the bank---any bank in town.
If what you have read today is new to you, you are not alone. This “newness” has not even reached major league baseball yet.
So, you citizens of Shelby County, Texas, you now know something about baseball and softball that the rest of the world is still unaware. Don’t you feel special?