Mets CF Angel Pagan (above), whose emergence as a versatile everyday player was one of the few bright spots in a lousy 2010 season, possesses vision the New York Times’ David Waldstein pronounces, “remarkably good”. “Measured by the Mets’ physicians at 20/13, Pagan can see at 20 feet what a person with 20/20 vision can see at 13 feet,” writes Waldstein. “That is the same vision Jason Giambi, known for his uncanny eyesight, had when he played for the Yankees.” Indeed, and as we well know, Giambi was able to read the same readers’ letters to Cheri magazine from 5 feet away that you or I had to gaze at up close.
To help players with their ability to see little spheres hurtling toward them at 90 miles per hour from a relatively close distance, the Mets use a machine designed to increase a player’s ability to track a pitch. Operated by Mike Victorn, who came to the Mets with Carlos Beltran when he signed his contract before the 2005 season, the machine fires tennis balls at up to 130 m.p.h. while the batter tries to determine what he just saw.
At its highest velocity, the tennis ball is just a blur as it passes by. But the exercise includes slowing the machine to game speed, and then having the player identify the one-inch numbers drawn onto the tennis balls as they zip past. To get 3 out of 10 is a job well done. Last week, Pagan identified seven correctly.
“Man, that is so hard,” said Jose Reyes, who uses the machine occasionally. “You can’t believe how hard it is.”
Good eyesight, while certainly helpful, does not necessarily translate into a high batting average. But with a .285 career batting average (and .296 over the past two years), Pagan has done well. Manager Terry Collins has excellent eyesight; when he was a minor league player, he was told that he had better vision than jet pilots.
“I could see the ball really well,” Collins said, “I just couldn’t make the bat hit it.”