How to better see the ball out of the pitcher’s hand
Happy Veterans’ Day to all those who have worn the uniform! Thank you for your service!
Last week I received a question from a high school player. His dilemma was a common one. He felt he was not seeing the ball well out of the pitcher’s hand and wasn’t sure what could be done. He also said he has been taught to stare at the release point and wait until the pitcher’s hand/ball gets into the “window.” His question was “What should I be looking at when the pitcher is on the mound and going through his delivery?”
It’s a great question but to answer it I’ll have to get into a little bit of science. Hopefully your eyes won’t glaze over like they used to in your high school biology class.
Let’s start with a concept called adaptation. Sensory adaptation basically means that the brain gets bored with things that it has focussed on for a while. It would rather search for and pay attention to new (novel) stimuli that might pose a possible threat. Here’s an example …
A store plays music constantly over the speakers. You notice the music when you enter but after a few minutes you don’t even realize the music is playing anymore. It’s there but you don’t notice it. It works with smell too. You are cooking something in a crock pot which smells up the whole house. You don’t really notice it until you leave the house for an hour and then come back. As soon as you enter the house the smell is overwhelming. The smell was always there but your brain tuned it out until it was new again when you walked back in. It’s the same with vision. That’s why human eyes are constantly trying to move. The movement prevents any image from staying the same for too long. It’s one of the many built-in survival techniques the body uses to keep us out of danger. Paying close attention to new things is the brain’s way of keeping us very aware of changes in our surroundings.
When the batter stares at the release point, the brain grows tired of looking at the same thing and the picture becomes less clear and maybe even blurry. To combat this, players need to keep their eyes moving. If they do then the brain constantly has new information to interpret so it doesn’t get bored. To accomplish this, a hitter can get into the box and may start by looking at his feet. Then he can shift his eyes to the bat. Then he can look out at the pitcher as a whole. Then he can focus on the pitchers eyes. When the pitcher gets the sign he can then look at his glove. Finally, when the pitcher separates his hands the hitter can shift his focus on the pitcher’s release point. Because the image is new/novel, the images of the release point and the ball will be clearer.
The order of what the hitter decides to focus on is up to him. My listing above does not have to be the order for every hitter. The point is, no matter what you choose to focus on, just be sure your last new image is the release point just before the ball gets there.