Talkin Even More Sports with Dr. G

Talkin’ Even More Sports with Dr. G

In the last exciting episode of Talkin’ Sports with Dr. G we were discussing what it is that batters are looking at when waiting for the pitcher to throw the ball. It turns out that they are getting clues from watching the pitcher’s shoulders and body as oppose to just “reading” the ball’s motion. It also turns out this is all pretty much a subconscious process as is so much of the visual process.

It turns out that keeping your eye on the ball doesn’t work in every situation. If batters simply kept their eye on the ball they would rarely be able to hit major league pitching - if ever. And Willie Mays would never have been able to make one of the most spectacular catches in baseball history during game one of the 1954 World Series:

Willie Mays, as you can see, took a quick and very informative look at the ball, decided where it was going and then got himself to the right spot on the field at the right time in order to make a great catch with his back to the ball.

Q: I remember reading Pete Rose's autobiography and as a young kid he was not a particularly outstanding athlete, but he taught himself to be a switch-hitter and just practiced and practiced and got really, really good. And I guess this raises the question: Is thousands of hours of training all you need to be a high performing athlete? And in fact one of the things you find that geneticists have discovered is that we all don't respond equally to training.

David Epstein: That's exactly right. In fact that, sort of more than anything is a message that's emerging from exercise genetics…[which] is teaching us is that a more important kind of talent is actually your biological set-up to respond well to training.

And Pete did apparently respond well to training. And not just standard baseball training. What you won't find in Pete Rose's autobiography however, is that during his time in the minor leagues, he came under the guidance of Dr. Bruce Wolff - one of the early pioneers of vision therapy (VT). According to Dr. Gregory Kitchener of Cincinnati, who later worked very closely with Dr. Wolff,

“Bruce Wolff was the team optometrist and evaluated the players that were brought to spring training. Pete was sent to spring training even though the team did not feel he was good enough to play in the major leagues (at least at that point). Bruce told me that the main reason the team sent Pete to spring training was because he was so enthusiastic and worked so hard that he made the other players work harder. After spring training he was sent back down to the minors. Bruce told the Reds that they should send Pete for VT at his office (Pete was from Cincinnati) during the off-season. They did and Pete went. That was probably 1961. In 1963 Pete made it to the majors.”

Pete, though he has never admitted this himself, did extensive vision therapy with Dr. Wolff starting when he was still less than outstanding. Dr. Wolff was an exceptional practitioner, thinker and teacher in the early days of behavioral optometry and vision therapy. I feel very fortunate to be able to trace my optometric lineage, at least in part, to this exceptional thinker and clinician even though I only met him once very briefly.

Next time: Another Optometrist With A Famous Patient: Dr. Robert A. Kraskin


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