Here’s the big misconception…
Many ball players think that they can only improve their batting average by working on their swing.
Now it is true, nothing is better for your batting success than working on your swing, whether it be hitting off a tee or a live pitcher. That’s no secret… But what else can you do to improve your batting?
Here are the top 6 ways you can improve your batting average without picking up a bat. Note: #5 is something you can’t ignore if you want to be an elite hitter.
- Approach before stepping in batters box
- See ball out of pitchers hand
- Pick up spin, speed and location of pitch
- Process what you see
- Decide how to respond
- Initiate or Don’t initiate swing
Now there are many steps to the swing but we’re not covering that in this article since that would require picking up a bat.
- Calm, Confident & Anticipation
The first step to hitting is your approach at the plate. Be calm and confident, take a deep breath, no thinking in the box, just react.
Now that you’re in the batters box, the next step is to see the ball out of the pitchers hand.
2 Don’t stare intensely at pitcher – the longer you stare the blurrier your vision gets – look past the pitcher with a soft focus, once he goes into his windup then look at the release point with a hard focus. This is important because you see the absolute clearest as soon as you look at something.
Shifting from a soft focus to a hard focus is a nice trick to see the seams on the ball as clear as possible right out of the pitchers hand.
Picking up a baseball is a bit trickier than most people really understand. Seeing clearly is important, but now you need to track the ball, identify it’s speed, and trajectory so that you can decide when and where to swing, or not swing. You have about a half a second (0.5) for your eyes to recognize all of that.
Multiple different tasks needs multiple different skills
See the seams – Visual Acuity/Clarity, Visual Focusing Strength
See the rotation on ball – Contrast Sensitivity
Track ball from pitcher’s hand to contact – Tracking, Focusing Flexibility
Identify speed – Binocularity, Depth Perception
It’s an accumulation of all these skills that allow you to judge when and where to swing. If there’s a weak point in any of those vision skills, your batting performance will be effected. It could be effected to the point where you’re struggling or it could just cause a bit of inconsistency. Either way that’s no fun!
It doesn’t matter if you have the most beautiful swing in the world, if your eyes aren’t giving you all the (quick and accurate) information you need to make solid contact.
3 Train the focusing muscles of your eyes
If you’ve ever looked at the pupil (black part) of the eye it changes size when you shift focus from a far target to a near target. It gets bigger or smaller so that the eye can shift focus and see the target clearly at those different distances. There are accommodation muscles in the eye that make this happen, and those muscles can be trained to improve the ability to focus and increase the speed of shifting focus from far to near.
By improving your strength and speed of focusing flexibility you’ll be better equipped to see the seams on the baseball right out of the pitchers hand and shift that focus as the ball comes toward you. If you ever feel like you’re behind the ball it could be because your eyes aren’t quick enough to keep up.
(NOTE: Want to learn simple exercises that will improve your focusing flexibility? You can do so in this free 6 step course)
4 Train your eyes to work perfectly together (at different distances)
This may sound silly… you’d think your eyes would automatically work together right?
While we hope that is the case for you, often times they don’t. This skill is call Binocularity, which is the ability to aim both eyes together at the same point, and it can be trained with various exercises. The better binocularity one has, the better their depth perception will be.
Everyone develops differently. There are multiple influences on your development like genetic make up, daily habits, and frequent stressors.
Some people are stronger on one leg or arm. Why? Because they’ve developed that way with repeated repetition.
Your ability to use both eyes equally together is no different.
A few common discrepancies are
- Some people are very dominate with one eye, this make it harder for the brain to use both eyes together.
- Sometimes the eyes work well together when looking up close but not in the distance.
- Sometimes the eyes work well together when looking in the distance but not up close.
The thing is you don’t feel the difference in your eyes like you do in your arms or legs, so the discrepancy is more likely to go unnoticed. Which brings us to #5
5 Get your vision FULLY tested
Most likely you’ve had an eye exam before. But what skills were tested?
Many eye exams consist of an eye health check, glaucoma check, visual acuity (20/20) test, and check if you need glasses or contacts. All of which are very important.
You need to see as clear as possible to be an elite hitter. The average MLB player sees 20/12, almost twice as good as 20/20!
But there’s more to seeing and hitting a baseball than just seeing clearly.
#3 and #4 are prime examples of this. The eyes have to shift focus quickly and accurately aim together to see the spin, speed and location of pitch. So it only makes sense to have those skills tested to make sure there aren’t any problems.
To have these other skills tested make sure you see a developmental optometrist that takes sports into consideration. If you go to a general eye doctor they won’t test those other skills. Even when it comes to the standard visual acuity test, if you score 20/20 they will probably say you’re within average range, but as a baseball players you want to be better than the average person. Remember the average person see’s 20/20, the average pro baseball player see’s 20/12.
6 Train your brain to process visual information faster
Between seeing the ball and swinging you have to
- Process what you see
- Decide how to respond
If you’re slow to process you’re slow to react.