Skip to content

For Harper, seeing is believing

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.
Read more

  1. UNTERP.NAT - May 12, 2011 at 3:44 PM

    There's really more to this story than the contact lenses. I probably should post this anonymously, but he really didn't get contact lenses. Harper received eye transplants with Superman or Roy Hobbs…

  2. Grandstander - May 12, 2011 at 3:51 PM

    Can we start a "Get Adam LaRoche Conact Lenses" fund?

  3. Chuck Norris - May 12, 2011 at 4:16 PM

    Bryce Harper doesn't need contact lenses. The baseballs see him and fly away in fear.

  4. Anonymous - May 12, 2011 at 4:16 PM

    Does Harpers dad stay with Bryce in Hagerstown? I read something about how Bryce had a hitting session with his dad before getting contacts and the combination of the two jump started him on his tear

  5. Steve M. - May 12, 2011 at 4:16 PM, that is my favorite article of the year from you. I am so glad that you were the first one to really dig into the full story as there was so much more there than "Bryce Harper gets contact lenses and now is on a major hitting streak".That article is baseball reference material that I am going to save.Thanks for writing that. Grandstander said… Can we start a "Get Adam LaRoche Conact Lenses" fund? May 12, 2011 11:51 AM Can I suggest another in-depth story on the one hand follow-thru of Adam LaRoche and compare that to the 2010 to 2011 new and improved Curtis Granderson and the transformation with hitting coach Kevin Long.

  6. Steve M. - May 12, 2011 at 4:29 PM is an ESPN Sports Science piece on hitting a 90 MPH fastball with reference to eyesight and then a 100 MPH Strasburg fastball which goes to a question JaneB had yesterday with regards to HenRod.

  7. Sec 3, My Sofa - May 12, 2011 at 4:29 PM

    One question: does he take Kaiser?

  8. Sec 3, My Sofa - May 12, 2011 at 4:39 PM

    Harper's eyesight now is so good …He can see the bug his home runs land on, over 500 feet away. And tell you what kind of bug it was …male or female.

  9. HHover - May 12, 2011 at 4:41 PM

    Re: LaRoche – Any updates on his shoulder? I remember hearing a lot about it 2-3 weeks ago, but not so much since. I'm still concerned it's not an eye doctor he really needs.Re: Bryce – When he started the season cold, he was making other excuses too, including complaints about the quality of low-A pitching. He seems to like it a lot more now.

  10. Anonymous - May 12, 2011 at 5:06 PM

    I know this is kinda geeky, but does anyone know what he runs the 60 yard dash in? Just thinking about maybe him possibly in CF next year

  11. Unkyd - May 12, 2011 at 5:37 PM

    He's fast…fast enough for anything….

  12. Doc - May 12, 2011 at 5:49 PM

    @ Anonymous, 1:06: Let's hope that the Nats have such data; I'll be disappointed to learn that they don't. We're aware, or can find out, the running metrics for football players–should be available on BB players too. Its not geeky at all—good question.I'll bet Harper is faster than Ankiel or Bernadina—when does the race begin??

  13. Steve M. - May 12, 2011 at 5:49 PM

    Here is info from The Baseball Jungle Blog on Curtis Granderson. Granderson was talking about how the results of the swing change gave him a psychological lift. “The mental side is so weird,” Granderson said, “because with one swing, you can go up or down mentally in this game. People don’t really grasp that side of it.” Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long made some changes to his batting stance starting in August 2010 and through the off-season and into Spring Training. Granderson now rests his bat against his shoulder with his hands at his chest where as he used to hold his bat above and in front of his head. By holding his hands next to his chest and having his bat against his shoulder, he is able to get around on pitches much easier without really rushing any of his mechanics through swing. Long also had Granderson end his swing with two hands on the bat instead of one hand which makes his wrist turn over more explosive.Since August 2010, only Jose Bautista and Troy Tulowitzki have hit more HRs than Granderson, and Granderson currently leads the Majors with 12 HRs which is 1 ahead of Bautista and Alfonso Soriano. He is now batting .276 this year against LH starters which is the best of his career.

  14. Mark Zuckerman - May 12, 2011 at 5:55 PM

    Steve M.: Sorry it took you so many tries to get that comment posted. For some reason, it was getting picked up by my spam filter and not posting. I went in there and clarified that it obviously wasn't spam.For anyone else who ever notices that a comment of theirs isn't getting posted, shoot me a quick email and I'll be sure to check and see if it, too, is incorrectly being labeled as spam. Seems to happen every once in a while, especially when comments include links.

  15. Steve M. - May 12, 2011 at 5:59 PM

    Mark, thanks for that. I thought maybe you didn't like my sincere compliment at 12:15PM and were blocking me! It was there one second and gone the next. Then there twice!

  16. Big Cat - May 12, 2011 at 6:06 PM

    Zimmerman vs Lowe tonight. Should be another close one. Nat hitters gotta lay off the low sinker. Make Lowe bring it up. If ever you want to see a good sinker, check out Lowe. He has one of the best in the game

  17. NatsJack in Florida - May 12, 2011 at 7:26 PM

    As a further discussion of the bull pen stuff that went on earlier today, I'd like to present this tid bit.The Dodgers have sent Hong Chi Kuo to the DL due to anxiety issues. In his place they are calling up Scott Elbert who has a 5.02 ERA in 13 appearances. He's 2 and 0 with 9 walks and 16 K's in 14 1/3 innings.I like our options much better.

  18. Big Cat - May 12, 2011 at 7:40 PM

    I don't think people realize how nasty our pen is becoming. The Joe Beimel days are over baby!

  19. Cwj - May 12, 2011 at 7:58 PM

    That's for sure Big Cat!

  20. Anonymous8 - May 12, 2011 at 8:06 PM

    With all due respect NatsJack, the NL West is the worst offensive division in the NL. The Nats have to face the Phillies, Marlins and Braves a combined 54 times a season.





As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...

MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.

*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at Click here for past audio clips.

Follow us on Twitter