“Baseball Players Cannot Keep Their Eyes On The Ball”: A Study By A. Terry Bahill

https://hittingperformancelab.com/baseball-players-cannot-keep-eyes-ball-study-terry-bahill/
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Heard “Keep Your Eyes On The Ball!” OR “See The Ball Hit The Bat!”…?

Ted Williams Seeing Ball Hit Bat.

Ted Williams said ‘on the rare occasion’ he could see the ball hit the bat. Photo courtesy: BaseballHall.org

Me too…

Well, we’re about ready to debunk both of these well worn coaching cues by sharing the results of a scientific study.

This study was sent to me by one of my readers (and friend) Joe Yurko…THANK YOU 😀

Here’s where you can find the full cited study:

A. Terry Bahill and T. LaRitz, American Scientist, 72, 1984, pp. 249-253

I recently presented the study to my Toastmasters club as a “Technical Paper”, and we recorded it so I could share the findings with you.

Sorry, I wasn’t mic’d up, so the audio isn’t the best, but I think you’ll get the message.

CLICK HERE for the Powerpoint slides I used for the speech.

In this video presentation, we go over:

  • Statement of the problem,
  • How it was solved,
  • Data Conclusions,
  • Experiment Applications, and
  • The study’s limitations…

In a nutshell, the study goes into debunking the two coaching phrases:

  • “Keep your eyes on the ball”, and
  • “See the ball hit the bat” (which Ted Williams said he could do “on the rare occasion”)…

The study findings will SHOCK you.

What’s more…

There was one Powerpoint slide I accidentally skipped over during the speech, and you can view the information on elusive slide #11 in the above-mentioned Powerpoint link.

The forgotten slide contains the following study findings:

  • Slowest pitch for hitter’s eye not to fall behind would be 21-mph assuming no wind and thrown at a 45-degree angle. To see the ball hit the bat? Would need an anticipatory saccade*…jump from first 1/3 of the plate to last 1/3, but you’d miss the middle 1/3 distance to plate.
  • *Saccade suppression – look at your image in mirror, look at your left eye, then look at right eye…did you see the eyes move? Process that turns off visual system during saccadic eye movements…otherwise, we would think the world is flying around us.
  • Hitter uses predictive abilities to track the ball the last 1/3 of ball flight…using peripheral vision.

I’d love to hear your comments about this below…

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Joey Myers

I’m a member of the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA), the International Youth and Conditioning Association (IYCA), and the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).I’m also a HUGE supporter of the Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA).

I’ve spent 11+ years in the corrective fitness industry, and have too many alphabet-soup certifications to bore you with.I also played four years of Division One baseball at Fresno State from 2000-2003.

It’s NOT how you study, but what you study that counts.I apply human movement principles (or rules), validated by science, to hitting a baseball and softball.
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6 Comments

  1. Joe

    Joey,

    You’re more than welcome. Glad to help. Maybe A. Terry Bahill would do another study with some of the great hitters of today. Or, maybe John Brenkus of Sport Science can pick this up. The best view of this I can think of is José Bautista’s bat flip HR vs. Texas in the playoffs last year. It can be found on YouTube (I’d send the link but I’m on my phone). It’s a must see.

    Joe

  2. Djura

    It’s funny because the last thing you want to do is use any reflexes or muscles to try to see the ball hit the bat…It’s like the kids who move there heads already have issues and now these people are compounding it… I stopped coaching REC because These people scream the loadest.. I coached 8 seasons and one allstar…My son is 8 and I told him at 10 or 11 he can do travel so I’ll have to put up with this for at least a little longer.. I’m assuming which I shouldn’t that the travel coaches are not saying this nonsense… But I’ve been wrong before…

    Its funny because when you swing your bat shouldnt it seem to disappear and if you follow a car going past you at 60 mph… Once it’s right next to you it should look like lines… Well kind of…. Ok bad examples but seriously I feel so bad for the kids that are being told this…. The worst thing was I had to tell my son to finsh his swing which meant his neck and head needed to do its thing… And somebody thought he was watching his line drive and needed to hustle to first… I was trying to explain that my son needs to finsh his swing and all the movements so I don’t want you to put it in his head to cut his finsh short to go to first to prove he’s pushing himself…that will mess up his swing… he try’s really hard and hustles on everything…He still thought I wanted him to show off… funny….Never asked me why he finishes that way… Perhaps finshing that way gave him the lines drives that he thought my son was looking at to show off…Again… People see, hear and feel what they know.. I’m not mad as he doesn’t know but than attacking a kid for showing off pissed me off… People are funny….

    Man… I just wanted to say something short.. Alright I’m done… Later…

    ~DM

    • Joey Myers

      Djura, the feelings mutual man. Just look at the election going on. People will not change their minds at this point. They’ve already dug their heels in, so if any of the candidates shot and killed someone in the middle of Times Square, the voters will still vote for their stallion 🙁 Sad, but this is the same with the Church of Baseball. Change is coming, albeit VERY slowly.

  3. Djura

    Yep…your so right Joey…Still this cue is by far one of the most popular… If you ever had a top 5 list of worse cues I might put this at number 1 since I hear it most often and I think it almost kills the batters swing everytime…The worst is it seems like if the batter try’s to do it it makes him/ her move there head more which than makes the coach yell to watch the ball hit the bat even more… Like a feedback loop…. Kind off…well the worst might have to be squash the bug… That can actually hurt you big time….

    ~DM