Develop a Soft, Fine Focus - Like Cosmo Kramer
The role the eyes play in hitting a baseball is instrumental to a player’s success. Athletes who embrace the concept of vision training and put in the necessary work, will discover that this drill will automatically be incorporated into every swing they take in practice or a game.
In this particular drill, a batter should begin the exercise with the mindset that they are not going to swing. Whether using a chalk drawing of a pitcher on a wall, a cardboard cutout like Macaulay Culkin used to stave off the villains in Home Alone or a MaxBP Reaction Training Machine - the focus of this drill is on the eyes. In the approximate vicinity of a pitcher’s waist, the athlete will look with relaxed vision without staring or trying to pick out specific details. Continue this soft, fine focus for the duration of the pre-pitch procedure. Initially, the hitter may struggle with this concept, but like any other drill - they will improve with time and practice.
Anyone who has successfully stared into an autostereogram (those two-dimensional images that feature a visual illusion of a 3-D image), has found that the hidden picture will only emerge when using proper visual convergence. The same concept should be used in this drill. By relaxing and using a soft, fine focus - an athlete will experience their desired result.
After practicing this exercise with a focus on still objects, the athlete should then incorporate moving objects into the drill; however, a player doesn’t want to rush it, that will hinder the developmental process. When the time is right to move on to the next stage of this drill, a player should maintain a soft focus until the ball is released by the pitcher (or MaxBP machine). At that point a hitter’s eyes should calibrate to an acute state of undivided focus.
Less experienced players should keep it simple with this drill. Don’t stress about speed or pitch type - just focus on training and strengthening your vision. Athletes looking for a more challenging experience can incorporate a number of variations, including higher speeds, breaking balls and multi-color balls.
The eye is a complex organ that is responsible for allowing conscious light perception and vision, including color differentiation and the perception of depth. Most athletes have spent little, if any time, strengthening their eyes; therefore, there will likely be a learning curve.
If a player is struggling with this concept, don’t get stressed or upset, that would be counterproductive. The last thing anyone wants is a situation like the Seinfeld episode, “The Gymnast,” in which Elaine’s boss Mr. Pitt becomes consumed with Kramer’s autostereogram poster. This fixation cost Mr. Pitt and his company a lucrative opportunity to merge with another business - not a productive obsession.
One of the challenging things about hitting a baseball is that every pitcher’s release point is unique. So, it’s important not to get so locked into this drill that you become mentally or visually inflexible. Stay loose and use a variety of visual targets. One of the luxuries of this drill is that it’s very cost effective and can be performed anytime, anywhere. All an athlete needs is a piece of chalk or a vivid imagination. A player can work on soft and fine focus with any inanimate object.
One key component to consider during this exercise, there is a significant element of timing required to master a soft, fine focus. Therefore, a moving pitch with some natural intervals provides premiere training for this drill. If an athlete has ever been "in the zone" or felt like the ball looked like a grapefruit, it's very likely that their eyes were already experiencing an organic version of this exercise.
Any player who has ever heard the slogan “perfect practice” can incorporate that concept to this drill. A hitter can ensure they are maximizing their visual capabilities which will inevitably lead to more individual and team success. This visual process will become second nature with dedication and practice; however, this is also an excellent drill to revisit when a slump arises or if a hitter feels like they aren’t seeing the ball very well. MaxBP is particularly effective for this type of vision training because of it's small ball concept. The challenge of hitting golf ball sized wiffle balls, especially with a BetterBat Skinny Barrel Training Bat, is extremely effective vision training in itself.
The “Soft, Fine Focus Drill” is an excellent exercise for players 11 years of age and older. To perform this drill a hitter could use an inanimate object, a piece of chalk, a practice partner, or for best results - a MaxBP Reaction Training machine (with a high enough release point that it resembles a pitcher).
This drill may not be as enjoyable as swinging the lumber, but vision is essential to a hitter’s success, and it’s well worth developing. As many of us have learned in life, sometimes the greatest rewards are a result of doing things we don’t necessarily want to do. For many budding players, this is a hurdle that proves to be an “Achilles heel.” Sure, baseball is supposed to be fun - but for those athletes looking to compete at the highest level - it’s going to take some work, too. Invest time into your eye sight and develop that soft, fine focus. This will prevent a player from over straining their vision during an at-bat and will allow a hitter to develop elite muscle memory of the eyes.