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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – So far this season, the University of Miami baseball team been swinging some hot bats.
The Hurricanes have jumped out to a 12-3 record, scoring an average 8.06 runs per game.
Part of the reason for the success at the plate could be new technology that the Canes are using to help their players while batting.
Four-tenths of a second; that’s the time it takes a baseball to get from a pitchers hand to the catcher.
Locking on to the ball was something the Hurricanes baseball team struggled with in 2018. They were 219th in the country at scoring runs.
Let’s just say they had a fundamental problem.
“Everyone says ‘see the baseball, hit the baseball,’ but how do you do that?” asked Miami assistant coach Norberto Lopez. “There’s an art to that.”
Enter the inquiring mind of Coach Lopez. He called the doctors at the Basom Palmer Eye Institute to help merge art and science.
“We sat down for weeks and we started planning out and organizing a plan all across with the vision,” he explained.
Dr. Natalie Townsend and her team came down to Mark Light Stadium on the University of Miami campus before the season started and got right to work, creating a baseline of data through different eye exercises.
“There is a lot of visual processing, pitch recognition, reaction time, and peripheral vision,” said Dr. Townsend. “All the stuff we need to take in account for sports.”
Think of it as weight training for your eyes, changing the routines every two weeks so as not to bore the athlete or the eye muscles.
Players even wear special glasses in the batting game that make it even harder to spot the ball.
“These are strobe glasses and the athletes wear these while they’re in the hitting cage, and try to make it harder for them to recognize how quickly the pitch is coming at them,” said Dr. Townsend.
Other exercises for players include hitting an object coming from the opposite direction, or spotting a certain letter on a baseball.
They are also asked to focus on different targets, which gets a person’s eyes to converge and diverge.
These workouts for the eyes help hitters locate and recognize pitches.
By all early indications, these changes are working.
Miami is top 10 in batting average and home runs already this season, thanks to the help from the good doctor.
“I never really thought ‘oh I’ve got to train my eyes,’” said Miami third baseman Raymond Gil. “They’re just my eyes, I either have vision or I don’t. Now I think I’ve got to go to the gym for my eyes, if you think about it like that.”
“I feel like I’m more calm now,” added first baseman Alex Toral. “I see the ball a lot better. My heads moving a lot less. My eyes are just focused way more.”
Not only are the Canes seeing more clearly, the score board is a little brighter too thanks to all those extra runs and hits showing up.