Do baseball players have better eyesight? At the highest level, generally, yes.
Reading spin, speed, and location of a 90+ mph fastball or a secondary pitch that breaks, dips or sinks requires a level of pitch recognition that is arguably the rarest athletic skill-set on the planet. Period.
More than almost any professional sport, baseball requires keen eyesight. The ability to see a ball, 3 inches in diameter, thrown at 90+ mph, well enough to react by swinging a bat and making contact with the ball...
...it's sorta mind-blowing, right?
When you think about what pro hitters are up against in the batter’s box, it’s no wonder they need such great eyesight.
Better than Perfect Vision?
While half of Americans who have 20/20 vision might consider themselves lucky, their eyesight wouldn’t "necessarily" guarantee great pitch recognition professional baseball.
On average, baseball players have visual acuity of 20/12, meaning they can see from 20 feet away what most people can only see from 12 feet.
In fact, some players have had vision even higher than 20/12, like Dustin Pedroia at 20/10 or Kevin Youkilis at 20/11. Additionally, it’s believed that 20/8 is the absolute limit of human eyesight.
Coaches and trainers at the professional level admit that players with less than 20/20 to start off probably don’t have a future in the major leagues.
Those with 20/20 can wear corrective lenses or even have laser eye surgery to get them down to 20/12, for instance. But for players who already have a prescription at 20/25 for example, they likely won’t be able to get their vision to the level required.
Indeed, only about 5% of minor league players make it to the majors. Sharp visual acuity is, therefore, an advantage that could make or break a career.
Players Aim to Improve Eyesight
Optimizing eyesight is a fairly new practice in major league baseball. Today, many players seek to improve their vision, either by training to see the ball better when they’re at bat or using corrective contact lenses.
Some even pursue laser eye surgery, as contact lenses can sometimes be blurry or uncomfortable. There are risks associated with these methods, though, as eye surgery can end up blurring your vision even more.
Knowing that better-than-perfect eyesight is crucial for their professional careers, however, makes players willing to take the risk.
It’s More than Just Visual Acuity
Baseball players’ success at the plate isn’t just about their eyesight, either.
They need exceptional hand-eye coordination, with a brain that responds at a lightning-fast speed. When tested for visual acuity and coordination, most professional baseball players score higher than the general population.
Consequently, trainers and baseball ophthalmologists link visual acuity with hand-eye coordination, believing that better vision doesn’t always directly result in the reflexes needed to face off against major-league pitchers.
Techniques for Testing beyond 20/20
Most optometrists and ophthalmologists use eye charts that only measure up to 20/15, and the average baseball player is 20/12. So what vision tests are there to test baseball players’ eyesight?
Specialists in eyecare for baseball players use specific vision acuity testing that can measure up to 20/8, the highest human threshold. They also have depth perception tests and contrast sensitivity tests.
Contrast sensitivity measures the quality of a player’s vision, rather than by numbers.
There’s also eye alignment and fusional ability, which test where vision tends toward and how well the two eyes are working together, respectively.
Since hand-eye coordination is also an integral factor in a baseball player’s eyesight, they can also be tested for developmental eye movement.
This test measures how well cognitive function is synced with eye movement and identifies any abnormalities.
Final Thoughts - Do Baseball Players Have Better Eyesight?
For young players who have dreams of playing ball at the highest level, getting regular vision checks and optimizing eyesight would be well worth pursuing.
In short, yes, baseball players have better eyesight than the average person.
At least, those at the major-league level do.
Further Baseball Eyesight, Vision & Pitch Recognition Topics:
- Can Baseball Players See The Ball Off The Bat?
- How To Become A Better Hitter in Baseball
- How To Face Different Types Of Pitchers