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.
The Washington Nationals have signed former Orioles All-Star catcher Matt Wieters to a one-year deal with a player option for a second year, according to multiple reports.
Wieters spent the first eight years in the Majors with the Baltimore Orioles, being named to the AL All-Star team four times and winning two gold glove awards. Last season the switch-hitting catcher posted a .243 average with 17 homers and 66 RBI.
The Nationals have been in the market for catchers all offseason after Wilson Ramos left for Tampa Bay in free agency. The team traded for former Padres catcher Derek Norris, whose role is now in question. The Nationals still have Jose Lobaton on the roster as a strong defensive backup catcher who has a proven rapport with many of the pitchers in the Nationals rotation. Wieters had been linked to the Nationals all offseason because of the team's need a the position and because of the Nationals close relationship with Wieters' agent Scott Boras.
The only significant time that Wieters has missed due to injury in his career came in 2014-15 when he had Tommy John surgury. Prior to that surgury, however, Wieters had played in at least 130 games for four straight seasons and became a large part of the Orioles' identity.
The 30-year-old backstop will give the Nationals lineup more depth and power. Wieters had three consecutive 20-homer seasons from 2011-13 and since 2009 when his career began, he ranks fifth among catchers in all of baseball in home runs with 117.
Related: Nationals 2017 promotional schedule includes snow globes and fedoras
The Washington Nationals recently released the dates of their promotional days and giveaways this season, and there are some real gems in this schedule.
Among the standard bobblehead giveaways — Daniel Murphy on April 14, Trea Turner on May 12 and Tanner Roark on June 9 — and the highly recommended Pups in the Park days — April 29, May 13, June 10, June 25, September 7 and September 30 — pick the right game and you could get a snow globe, an American flag shirt or even a fedora. Seriously.
On May 24’s game against the Mariners, the first 25,000 fans will get a Max Scherzer snow globe, which has the potential to be the coolest knickknack in your house. Or on June 14 against the Braves — oddly not closer to the Fourth of July — Budweiser is behind the first 15,000 21-and-up fans getting an American flag tank top.
But truly the most unique item on this list is the Nationals-themed fedora, which will go to the first 25,000 fans at the Brewers’ July 26 matchup. How the Nats landed on this promotional item remains a mystery, but if you like hats beyond a traditional baseball cap, this is the game to attend.
Other cool or oddball promotions include the Nats Magic 8-Ball game April 3, the Chewbacca Koozie day May 27, Bryce Harper action figure day August 29 and Oktoberfest beer stein day Sept. 29.
Here's the complete list of the team's promotional days and giveaways.
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