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May 15, 2011 / Nat Anacostia

Bryce Harper’s eyesight

According to Dave Sheinin of the Washington Post:

On the day Bryce Harper walked into the eye doctor’s office, he was, he would say later, “blind as a bat.” Keith Smithson, the Washington Nationals’ team optometrist, asked Harper to read an eye chart, then looked at him with astonishment and said, according to Harper: “I don’t know how you ever hit before. You have some of the worst eyes I’ve ever seen.”

That was on April 19. The next night, fitted with a new pair of contact lenses, Harper, batting just .231 at the time for the low-Class A Hagerstown Suns of the South Atlantic League, had a double and a single against the visiting Hickory Crawdads. The next night, he homered. And the night after that, he singled, doubled, homered and drove in six runs.

“It was like I was seeing in HD,” Harper said.

Suffice it to say Harper’s hi-def vision is a huge upgrade over standard-def. In 20 games since his visit to the eye doctor, Harper is hitting .480 (36 for 75) with a .547 on-base percentage and an .893 slugging percentage — with 7 homers, 10 doubles and 23 RBI.

Harper added:

“I needed [the contacts] in college,” he said. “But I tried them for a while in high school, and they gave me headaches really bad. So I just got by without them. But these are a new kind [of lenses], and they really help. The difference [in vision] is huge.”

Which has me wondering… The Nationals, like other major league teams, give players physical exams on the first day of spring training. That seems pretty obvious for a professional sport where the players are expected to engage in daily strenuous physical activity for a period of nearly eight months.

But don’t the exams include eye tests? Can they really be investing tens of millions of dollars in some of these players without doing regular eye exams? Come on, now.

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