MLB.com Digital Academy Instructional Tip of the Week – October 7
By Dr. Bill and Ryan Harrison
Baseball gives you great challenges. Fortunately, these are challenges that you will learn to conquer.
It’s hard enough to hit a ball when it’s sitting on a tee. Even though the ball isn’t moving, hitting it hard is difficult.
When the ball is pitched to you, you face another level of difficulty.
Fortunately, when pitches come slow enough you likely will be able to hit some of them fairly well. The same is true in fielding a grounder or catching a fly ball.
Consistently hitting a baseball requires exceptional visual skills. Speed, extraneous motion and peripheral distractions often challenge this.
In baseball you need to be able to see and react quickly and efficiently. This requires an increase in the speed of your visual system processing – your eye speed.
Consider the importance of eye speed when you’re on a skateboard or riding your bike. When you see a red light or stop sign you react to it and use the brakes. The processing speed of your ‘visual brain’ defines how fast you can register and identify an external visual stimulus like a red light. Your motor speed determines how fast you can react to it and use your brakes.
How fast you can see, or how much you can visually process per millisecond, determines whether or not you can see and react to a high-speed ball before it goes flying by you. If your vision is heightened, the ball will appear as if it is bigger and moving slower. Using speed of visual processing allows you to see things sooner, giving you more time to adjust to the unexpected. The sensitivity or alertness of visual brain cells often determines the difference between whether or not players can rise to the challenge.
We have developed a series of visual drills that are available in MLB.com Digital Academy’s Players Clubhouse. myVision is a software training program that challenges and enhances the speed of sensory information processing, the ability to handle distractions, and still see what they need to see. The software training brings these skills to the subconscious level, which allows them to become automatic responses. This, in turn, frees the conscious mind to focus on performance. The end result is that when the baseball is coming towards you, both at the plate and in the field, it will appear slower.
Dr. Bill Harrison and his son Ryan are contributing writers at MLB.com Digital Academy and pioneers in the field of Sports Vision with an emphasis on baseball. Both have spent years working with MLB players and teams such as the Kansas City Royals, Atlanta Braves, San Francisco Giants, Toronto Blue Jays, and Los Angeles Dodgers. Together they developed the myVision training software available at MLB.com Digital Academy. For more on the Harrisons and their work, visit SlowTheGameDown.com.