The Cincinnati Bearcats baseball team is in the news today for a revolutionary vision training program they are using to help their offense. It involves a wide range of activities designed to sharpen focus and help players better see the ball.
According to the Associated Press, the Bearcats increased their team batting average by 34 points last season, despite the NCAA switch to aluminum bats engineered to play more like wooden ones. The program helped Cincinnati get significantly better at the plate while hitting was down overall in the Big East.
They say the exercise has become more and more popular and is even practiced in the major leagues. Quoted in the story is none other than Nationals utility guy Steve Lombardozzi.
''I try and get an edge any way I can,'' Lombardozzi told AP. ''I'm big into vision training. To me, it's a no-brainer. The most important thing about hitting is you have to see the ball to hit. Any type of vision training you can do to help you see the ball, the more successful you're going to be.''
The switch-hitting Lombardozzi is currently batting .317 in 33 games this season. At six feet and 195 pounds, the 23-year-old makes his living as a contact hitter and has done well for himself so far.
The article describes the drills Cincinnati uses, some of which involve blinding strobe goggles and other gadgets designed. The goggles are used to blind the player for fractions of a second while they focus on catching balls thrown at them.
Cincinnati reportedly does the program several times a week. They have been contacted by several MLB teams in interest of adopting the practice. With Lombardozzi as a proponent, maybe more Nationals players will catch on.
Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez became the first former Nationals player (2005-present) to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday. He was inducted in his first year of eligibility, marking the 52nd first-ballot hall of famer in history.
Rodriguez, who was the first free agent signed by current Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, played the final two seasons of his career with Washington in 2010-11. During his time in D.C. he hit .254 six homers and 68 RBI. Pudge's greatest contribution to the Nationals came from his leadership and work ethic. He guided Stephen Strasburg through his rookie season and also helped develop Wilson Ramos so he could pass the torch to him.
During his 21-year career, Pudge made 14 all-star teams, won 13 gold gloves, won seven silver slugger awards, led his league in caught-steeling percentage nine times, and was named American League MVP in 1999 with the Texas Rangers. He became a World Series champion in 2003 with the Florida Marlins. Pudge's 13 gold gloves are the most ever by a catcher, and his 2,844 career hits are the most ever by a player who appeared in 50 percent or more of their career games as a catcher.
In addition to Rodriguez, former Montreal Expos great Tim Raines was inducted to the Hall of Fame. Raines is the franchise leader (Expos/Nationals) in walks (793), runs (947), stolen bases (635) and triples (82). Raines was an all-star seven times and he won a silver slugger in 1986 with the Expos. He is the only player in MLB history with at least 100 triples, 150 homers and 600 RBI in a career, and the only player to steal at least 70 bases in six consecutive seasons.
Related: Bryce Harper wants Nationals to spend money on players, not team store
Bryce Harper isn't one to keep his opinions to himself. The Nationals slugger is outspoken about what he wants, whether that's to "Make Baseball Fun Again" or to make at least $400 million on his next contract.
On Wednesday, he gave his take on how the Nats should be investing their money this summer. Here's Harper responding to a tweet from ESPN's Jim Bowden.
Harper's message: Players over everything else. Sorry, gift shop.
It's plain to see where the 2015 NL MVP is going with this. Obviously, he wants as much talent around him as possible for a chance to win the World Series.
Matt Wieters, a four-time All-Star catcher, and Greg Holland, a two-time All-Star closer, could be significant additions to Washington's roster.
Harper is set to become a free agent in 2018, at which point an organization like the New York Yankees will be prepared to offer him both a massive salary and a massive investment in the players around him.
The slugger probably hopes his current team will try to surround him with winning pieces in an effort to keep him. But if a report about the Nationals' reaction to his contract demands proves accurate, they may have another agenda.
There's Harper drama around the Nationals? Just a regular Wednesday here in Washington.
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