If you happen to read my personal blog, you know I love baseball and in particular spring training. Though I was born and raised in Philadelphia, and have a lifelong attachment to the Phillies, our daughter and son-in-law reside in Cincinnati with their three girls so I’ve developed a secondary interest in following their team. An article in PLoS One caught my eye not only because of the title
High-Performance Vision Training Improves Batting Statistics for University of Cincinnati Baseball Players
— but because one of its co-authors is the legendary Johnny Bench, one of the the best hitting catchers ever to play the game. Dock Ellis was a colorful pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the era when Bench was a superstar. In an effort to inspire his lethargic teammates during a game in 1974, Ellis drilled Pete Rose, Joe Morgan and Dan Driessen in the top of the first inning. Tony Perez dodged Ellis’ balls well enough to draw a walk, but when Dock buzzed Johnny Bench’s head he was promptly lifted from the game by the Bucs’ manager Danny Murtaugh.
Though long retired from baseball, bench has remained quite active, and his interest in the medical field includes serving as a spokesman for Stryker Corporation. Dock Ellis passed away in 2008 but another doc named Ellis, Dr. Jim Ellis, is now on the same playing field as Johnny Bench. The University of Cincinnati’s team optometrist for athletics, Ellis is one Bench’s co-authors of the study on high performance vision training in baseball published in PLoS One.
The vision training was implemented in January 2011, six weeks before the start of the season. Each team member participated in three times weekly “spring training” sessions, each session averaging 30 minutes. A consolidated schedule was maintained during the season, training twice weekly, each session lasting 20 to 30 minutes.
The vision training techniques employed were Dynavision, Tachistocsope, Brock String, Eyeport, Rotator, Chart Saccades, Near/Far Rock, and Nike Strobe Glasses. If you’re a sabermetrician, you’ll enjoy looking at all the batting statistics that significantly improved as reported in the PLoS One article online.
I particularly like this quote from the Newton Blog:
“The results of the study are compelling, and should make any baseball coach or player consider adding visual training to their regimen.”
Nice to see Optometry and Sports Vision linked in to such great outcomes. For more info on Sports Vision in general, Graham Erickson’s book is a wonderful resource, as is the Sports Vision Section of the American Optometric Association.
– Leonard J. Press, O.D., FCOVD, FAAO