YORK -- The game of baseball is a lot more complex than just ‘see ball, hit ball.’
Mark Wetzel is trying to make the game easier for everyone – which is pretty amazing, considering he can hardly see anything. “I have macular degeneration, but I still get around real well,” he said.
Macular degeneration is another way of saying Mark is blind. Legally blind, actually. But Mark, who is based in Omaha, Nebraska, is still one of the top hitting instructors in the country.
How does a blind man teach others how to hit?
Eric Eymann of the York Revolution knows. He’s trained with Mark since he was a kid.
“You really have to buy into his program," said Eymann, who played in the 2011 Atlantic League All-Star Game at Sovereign Bank Stadium in July. ”And when you do; it seems to work for a lot of people."
Mark - or “the Blind Guy,’” as he refers to himself -- can still see out of the corners of his eyes, using the peripheral vision he has left.
“If you're hitting, he kind of looks over here (to the side) and leans up against the net,” described Eymann (pronounced Eye-man), “and he'll see the outside of your body."
That outline of the hitter’s body, as Wetzel reveals on his instructional DVD, shows him everything he needs to know. “I can completely tell you where his hands were; where his weight was; and what his swing was doing,” Wetzel explains in The Blind Guy’s Secret to Great Hitting.
It’s certainly clear that Mark Wetzel has a vision.
He teaches little leaguers; minor leaguers; even the blind, who participate in beep baseball, a form of baseball developed for blind and visually impaired individuals.
One of Mark’s biggest supporters is Tony Gwynn, the former San Diego Padres’ outfielder who is a Hall of Famer and is considered one of the top hitters in baseball history.
For those reasons, Eric was never leery of approaching him for advice.
“I didn't really give it that much thought, because I heard he could help you,” recalled Eymann, who is batting .319 with three home runs and 42 RBI in 63 games this season.
“I get more satisfaction working with that 12-year-old who is struggling; and seeing his eyes light up,” Wetzel said in a past interview with KMTV, the CBS television station in Omaha.
Eric was once a struggling 12-year-old, too.
Since then, he’s been a 19th-round pick of the Reds (in 2005) and has made it as high as Triple-A. He doesn’t speak to Mark as frequently he used to; but said Mark has even helped him make adjustments with his swing in the past by simply talking over the phone.
Only in a complex game like baseball could someone named Eymann learn the art of hitting from a Blind Guy.
Some video used in this report is courtesy of KMTV-TV and www.blindguyhitting.com.