Don't get it twisted. Baseball is a War. The duel between the pitcher and hitter is a battle that embodies what it means to be the ultimate competitor. When the ballplayer applies baseball eye black designs under each eye, it's not that much different than War Paint.
Stick around as we uncover everything you need to know about baseball eye black, it's history, some cool designs as well as a way to get some Applied Vision Baseball eye black at a discount!
History of Eye Black in Baseball
The first reported use of eye black in baseball goes back to the 1930s and by none other than the legendary Babe Ruth. He used grease made out of a combination of burnt cork ashes and shoe polish. Other players tried to follow this trend - in an attempt to give themselves a psychological boost. It soon became a staple in nearly every American sporting event.
Decades later, ballplayers began wearing stickers - made of a patented fabric - instead of grease. These stickers had the advantage of being easier to remove without much mess. Others created unique eye-black designs with embedded messages and symbols, a practice that has spurred its fair share of controversy in recent years (more on that later).
Why Do Baseball Players Wear Eye Black?
The main purpose behind eye black is to (supposedly) reduce glare that reflects from the skin.
So, you've probably heard how people shouldn't wear black attire during summer. The underlying reason is that black objects (including fabrics) are presumably prone to absorb visible light and transform it into heat.
This same notion is baked into the usage of eye black. The strip or grease is said to absorb light and decrease the amount that gets through the eye and which occasionally impedes effective ball tracking during a daytime ball game. This includes light from the sun and any possible reflect surfaces.
Another obvious reason is "expression".
So much of playing baseball is about having a process, a ritual and feeling prepared to compete.
Applying eye black is like applying war paint. If you feel good, you play good.
What Does Eye Black Actually Do? (Ingredients and Practical Application)
As mentioned earlier, original eye blacks were made of cork ash and shoe polish. Later versions contained paraffin, beeswax, and carbon soot.
Nowadays, the formula has been refined to include more complex compounds and ingredients such as skin conditioners, vitamin E, oil, aloe, menthol, and iron oxide. For their part, the stickers are usually made with a matte-finished fabric.
We've already touched upon what the eye black is purported to do. But does it actually work?
Apparently, it does!
In all honesty, there have not been that many studies on the subject. There was one published in the renowned Journal of American Medical Association researched by Brian DeBroff and Patricia Pahk, which tried to pin down the differences when using eye black, black stickers, and petroleum jelly. The study concluded that eye black (especially the grease variety) did improve contrast sensitivity. Now, it must be mentioned that the study had a significantly small sample group (consisting of a mere 46 people), so it's far from conclusive.
Another study - carried out by the University of New Hampshire - found that blue-eyed people did not benefit from eye black as much as non-blue-eyed people and that the improvements in contrast sensitivity were far more apparent during tests performed outdoors.
Regardless of the actual effects of eye black, there's definitely a psychological component in its application. For example, it's been shown consistently how players who wear eye black feel more confident in their skills because of the sight "improvements," regardless of whether these improvements were perceived as "placebo" or real.
What Is The New Eye Black Rule in Baseball?
Over a decade ago, the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) banned any unapproved messages and symbols on eye blacks. This rule is known colloquially as the "Tim Tebow rule" because it was enacted after heated discussions triggered by professional footballer Tim Tebow's use of biblical references. The rule also forbids using eye black as "war paint" or facial decoration, limiting its application to one strip per eye.
As of this writing, there are no rules in professional baseball (the MLB) regarding the use of symbols and messages. The NCAA rule only affects school and college athletes.
Popular Baseball Eye Black Designs
Besides the functional aspect of eye blacks, many people also find aesthetic value in them. Some eye blacks are designed to simply look cool, while others are outright intimidating. Let's have a quick look at the different designs and patterns.
Stripe Sticker Designs
In terms of sticker designs, you'll find the standard eye black sticker consisting of a single strip of fabric with a solid black color. However, a plethora of themed and multicolored stripes are also available on the market. These latter models may not be as optimal against glare as their plain black counterparts, but at least they look "flashy." That said, stickers mostly stick to conventional designs and shapes.
Oil (Grease) Designs
Grease eye blacks nowadays mainly come in the form of bars and sticks that you can rub on your preferred skin surface. Some may look like your regular deodorant sticks (perfect for single strips or broad strokes), while others come with a lipstick-style appearance for more intricate and detailed shapes.
Unique Shapes and Patterns
While the most conservative players and fans will stick to the tried and true one-line strip, others have pushed the boundaries and turned eye black into an authentic artistic expression. Who can't recall Bryce Harper's war paint-style eye blacks? Or Cedeño's "smudgy mustache"? (which is as far from the eye black's intended purpose as it can be, all things considered!)
Across the web, you'll find virtually hundreds of eye-black patterns and shapes. Some people literally draw "masks" covering the entire area around the eyes (like John Randle). Other memorable patterns include the "spider web," the "raccoon" (a broad horizontal strip that goes across the eyes through the nose bridge), the "high school baseball player" (consisting of wedge-like shapes across the cheeks), and more typical shapes such as crosses, scratch marks, plus signs, hearts, and many more! The sky's the limit, really.
How Eye Black is Applied
Applying baseball eye black is a pretty straightforward process. Of course, it depends on the eye black you choose, but it shouldn't be cumbersome either way. Let's first go over the types of eye black products available.
Types of Eye Black Products
Currently, there are two types of eye black products to choose from: "Sticks" and "stickers." Sticks are essentially bars that are rubbed on the cheeks, while the prefabricated stickers adhere under the eyes.
To use the stick, imagine you're using lipstick or lip balm but on your cheek or under the eye (or whichever surface you prefer around your face) instead of your lips. Just pop off the cap and repeatedly rub the inner solution on the skin until a solid color is formed. Make sure it covers at least the area from the cheekbone to near the nose bridge, particularly if you are a player.
Stickers are even easier to apply. All it takes is to peel off the sheet and place the side with the adhesive on the skin. The tricky part is to align the stickers, so you'd want to do this in front of a mirror. The sticker's center should line up perfectly with your eye pupil.
Maintenance and Removal
You ought to ensure that your face is clean before applying the eye black, especially if you're using a sticker eye black. If your face is smudgy or sweaty, the adhesive might not stick successfully, and it may consequently fall off.
Stickers are much easier to remove than grease for obvious reasons. In a nutshell, you simply peel them off the skin, and you're done! You'd probably want to wash your face afterward to remove any adhesive residue, but that's about it.
Grease takes a bit more effort to remove. You might have to use a cotton ball with rubbing alcohol to scrub it off.
Eye Black and Baseball Performance
Ultimately, in a game of failure, applying eye black is a great way to help a player focus on the aspect of the game that is in their control. Their process and preparation.
When I played, applying eye black help me get my "mind right" while I envisioned the type of performance I wanted to execute for that day.
If you're looking to get you some eye black, check out our store and Baseball Bundles!
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