SYRACUSE | Corey Brown didn’t trust his own eyes.
The Syracuse Chiefs outfielder was striking out too much. He hoped the answer was simple, physical.
Better to get his vision corrected than keep a K-per-game average chewing into his batting average.
“We were getting physicals in the spring, I was joking with the eye doctor and asked him what was wrong with my eyes. Maybe there was a reason why I strike out so much,” Brown said looking back. “He said, ‘Your vision is really good, but one of the test says you are struggling with recognition.’”
Brown could physically see a fastball or a slider rather well. The disconnect was in picking up the difference between the two.
A disconnect that can derail a career based on contact.
In 165 Triple-A games in 2011, Brown struck out 180 times and walked 58. In his three big league at-bats last year, he struck out twice.
Part of it was a desire to succeed after being traded into the Nationals organization in 2010. Part of it was that his brain wasn’t transferring information like he wanted, or needed it, to.
“There were a lot of changes for him with his stance, his hands, and the organization. That was all a part of it. Then he had this extra piece,” Chiefs hitting coach Troy Gingrich said. “Now we have these glasses that are part of the solution. There are a lot of other parts too, but they are a piece.”
The glasses make you blind as a batter.
If only for a moment.
The Nike SPARQ Vapor Strobe glasses don’t correct vision. They restrict it in different patterns to train the wearers brain’s to to anticipate, track, and react. They can run at a low pulse, block vision in just one eye, or obscure vision in high speed bursts and any combination therein.
Ever see high speed photography, or a strobe light flashing, that makes it look like a hummingbird wings are flapping really slowly? Similar idea, but strapped to your head.
The glasses train the brain to pick up the spin of the laces on a slider, curve, or cutter.
In spring training, Brown tried the glasses that his friend, Nationals reserve infielder Steve Lombardozzi, was using. The pair worked with Gingrich for the first time.
Gingrich would throw pitches with balls smaller than a baseball. Brown and Lombardozzi would just track them with the glasses on.
No bats. No swings. Just watching pitches. Just watching a spinning ball in a choppy field of vision.
Both are seeing dividends.
Lombardozzi is 6-for-12 with a double in Washington including a four-hit game on April 16. Brown leads the Chiefs in walks with 13 and has only nine strikeouts. He is batting .278, but the on-base percentage is .426. The OPS (on-base plus slugging) is .871 when 1.000 is elite.
“I am trying to start my road,” Brown said. “I am in hitters’ counts more often since I can pick up pitches better. I get to see a lot more fastballs.”
“The biggest thing with hitting is confidence walking up to the plate,” Gingrich said. “If these act as another thing that becomes part of the routine to give him confidence than that is the best outcome of the entire idea of using them.”
The Chiefs and parent Nationals have had the confidence to keep Brown in Syracuse’s lead-off spot in all 14 game this season.
"He has taken what he did in spring training and has just continued into the season," Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo said to MASNSports.com. "He's got a good game plan at the plate now. They've tweaked his approach, his mechanics a little bit over the course of last season and through spring training. And he's really come a long way, defensively and offensively."
The parent club sees how far Brown has come thanks, in small part, to a pair of glasses.