May 12, 2011, 4:17 AM EST
Associated Press photo
Bryce Harper’s offensive surge has coincided with his improved vision.
Bryce Harper never had poor vision. Like millions of others, he always saw well enough to get through life without needing corrective lenses. And he certainly didn’t appear to have trouble playing baseball, dominating the high school and junior-college levels like perhaps no player in decades.
But as his minor-league career got off to a nondescript start, Harper noted he wasn’t seeing the ball as well as wanted to, so the Washington Nationals hooked up their 18-year-old phenom with a local optometrist who has spent the last decade working with professional athletes in nearly every sport.
Keith Smithson immediately prescribed Harper contact lenses that would sharpen his vision to a level more befitting a major-league ballplayer, and got the outfielder started on a comprehensive vision training program designed to strengthen his eye muscles and allow him to process what he sees much quicker than before.
This all happened only three weeks ago, but experts in the field know it usually doesn’t take long for patients to see positive results.
“Studies tell us that vision training, after as little as two sessions, can show statistical improvement,” Smithson said. “It’s a pretty dramatic improvement, pretty quick with certain things.”
Is it ever. Since meeting with Smithson for the first time late last month, Harper has gone on a tear at low-Class A Hagerstown. After a 4-for-5 performance Wednesday night that included his first career grand slam, he’s now riding a 15-game hitting streak, having posted a .492 average, five homers and 16 RBI during that stretch.
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