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Originally posted on LiveScience.com
Your Little League coach probably didn't know it, but every time he sent you to the plate with the instructions "keep your eye on the ball," he was giving you an impossible task.
And if you followed the coach's advice of positioning yourself directly under a popup, you probably struggled to catch balls in the outfield, too.
Ken Fuld, a baseball enthusiast and visual psychophysicist at the University of New Hampshire, has pored over numerous baseball studies and suggests that neither of these approaches produce optimal results.
Instead, much to your coach's chagrin, you should try mimicking the quirks of the best Major League players.
Major League Heat
At the Major League level, pitchers sling fastballs between 90 and 100 mph and sometimes a tweak faster. The ball moves far too swiftly for a batter to watch for its entire journey to home plate.
"In the last few feet before the plate, the ball reaches an angular velocity that exceeds the ability of the eye to track the ball," Fuld told LiveScience. "The best hitters can track the ball to within 5 or 6 feet of the plate."
After that, they shift their eyes to where they anticipate the ball will cross the plate. Some players "take" the first couple pitches of an "at bat" as they try to calibrate the movement and speed of a pitcher's offerings.