FIELD OF VISIONS
by Brian P. Dunleavy
Photographed by NEDJELJKO MATURA
Baseball's superstars--sluggers such as Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire, for
example--use batting practice to refine their hitting mechanics. If Barry
Seiller, MD, has his way, however, players throughout Major League Baseball
will soon be working on their visual mechanics as well.
As the owner of the Visual Fitness Institute in Vernon Hills, Ill., Dr.
Seiller has worked with dozens of high school, college, Olympic and
professional athletes on enhancing and/or maximizing the visual skills
required for their individual sports. He is now in the process of initiating
similar programs with several Major League Baseball teams.
Studies have shown that an athlete's performance can be affected by problems
with visual abilities such as depth perception, focusing, eye-hand
coordination, visual attention and peripheral vision. Dr. Seiller puts his
client athletes through a rigorous eye and visual skills exam that measures
not only their visual acuity, but also their eye-hand coordination, depth
perception and reaction time. Depending on their results, he may prescribe
spectacles, contact lenses or laser surgery to address any visual needs as
well as specific therapies designed to strengthen their "sports visual
Two years ago, Dr. Seiller took his technology and techniques to the campus
of Georgia Tech (see 20/20, "Computer Games," Technology, April 1998), where
he worked with the intercollegiate athletes at the Atlanta school in a
specially designed facility. He is already working with the Cleveland
Indians on installing a scaled-down version of the facility at their Jacobs
"For years I had heard sports vision was a gimmick," notes Indians strength
and conditioning coach Fernando Montes, who is also president of the
Professional Baseball Strength and Conditioning Coaches Society. "But the
technology involved today is so impressive. And you can't argue with the
results. We see visual fitness as a component of sports performance
enhancement for our players."
According to Montes, the Indians have tested the visual fitness of more than
120 players in their minor league system. Two players they believe will be
on the major league roster during the 2001 season were tested last fall
during a trial program and were sent home with training exercises to work on
during the offseason.
"They've reported a lot of improvement," says Montes. "They are seeing the
ball better and they are more focused at the plate and in the field. In our
sport, that's what it's all about.