Opening Day for Major League Baseball (MLB)  was April 3 and I am excited!  Baseball also means springtime, when I can look forward to long daylight hours, warmer weather and spending more time outdoors.  And baseball means numbers. I love baseball’s nerdy side with statistics , and not just batting averages and ERAs. I love the uniqueness that baseball celebrates. Player A is the first right handed outfielder to hit 3 doubles on a Sunday while batting 6th!    With each player that comes to the plate, I wonder if he will rise above his “numbers” or just give us more of the same. As an optometrist, I know there is more to it than athleticism, talent, and work ethic.  It is also about visual skills.

Take a look at this poster which presents some data for the best high school baseball players in the country, at least those east of the Mississippi. During the East Coast Pro Showcase which is run by the MLB Association, these athletes are trying to impress various clubs with their skills on the field; but the MLB is also considering and documenting their visual skills.

At the East Coast Pro Showcase in 2014, a vision screening was performed on over 200 high school athletes.  Eight different skills were measured, and visual “profiles” were developed for each player. For each skill, the score measured performance relative to the other players.  If 3 is an average score, then 5 is superior and 1 is below average.  This made it easy to judge the visual skills of each athlete by comparing them to his peers.

The authors then offer some ideas about what these various numbers and measurements mean.  In other words, they didn’t just give the data to the MLB and say their goodbyes.  They actually thought about it. For example, why do so many athletes display an eso posture when presented with a Brock string?  Is it an adaptation or a handicap?  It would help to know that player’s batting average.  If a player has poor focus flexibility, is that going to limit their ability to make spectacular plays in the outfield? Is the number of errors a correlate?

Thinking about the numbers….. this is what I do every day. After I collect my data (sometimes more sometimes less), I think about the numbers and measurements. Is this an adaptation or a handicap?  Is this child struggling in school? with what aspects of academic performance? Is this child at a disadvantage compared to other children in that classroom? If this child has poor focus flexibility are they going to have difficult making spectacular plays at their desk? on the playground? how about the routine plays?  What else do I need to know about this child or adult? And how can I help them get better at their sport or work or schoolwork or life?

Optometry doesn’t have a season.  We play year round.  We don’t have an opening day celebration.  Instead we celebrate every patient that comes to us and trusts us to collect some data and think about those numbers.  We have thousands of ball parks!  Find a stadium in your neighborhood!  I don’t know of any that have hotdogs but a few have popcorn.

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