Go to any professional or college baseball game, and you will see something known as the batter’s eye. The batter’s eye could refer to a hitter’s actual eyeball, but what the term is actually talking about is the solid coloring behind center field. It can take many forms, but the idea is that the batter’s eye provides a dark and solid contrasting color from the baseball so that a hitter can see the ball as it approaches the plate.
It is difficult enough to hit a 90+ mph Major League fastball. It is one of the hardest, if not most difficult, things to do in sports. Throw in curveballs, sliders, knuckleballs, and every other grip in a pitcher’s arsenal, and it is sometimes a wonder how successful hitters can be. Some success is due to the ability to see the ball clearly out of a pitcher’s hand because of the batter’s eye.
Most fields will employ a batter’s eye through the use of a large windscreen. Black is probably the preferred color since it has the most contrast from the baseball, but a team’s colors could also be used if they are dark enough. Blue and green are popular choices, and even red is an option for the batter’s eye. Besides a windscreen, the center field wall could be high enough to act as the batter’s eye. Some fields that utilize the center field wall option might have potential home runs stay in the park due to the taller height of the wall.
Having a solid background can make a world of difference when at the dish. If a baseball is blended in with fans in the background or downtown scenery, it could make it very difficult to pick up the spin of the ball. Depth perception would take much longer, and it takes long enough with a proper batter’s eye in the backdrop. This is also a safety concern, as the better a hitter can see, the quicker they can move out of the way of an errant pitch near the head.
Player’s become so accustomed to having a batter’s eye, that it seems silly when the smallest things affect their eyesight and line of vision. Take this video analysis of the Pittsburgh Pirates left-handed pitchers, specifically Francisco Liriano, by Harold Reynolds. Just the different shades of green from the bushes seem to have an impact on the hitter’s vision while at the plate.
If you don’t fully understand the concept of the batter’s eye, imagine driving your car on a sunny day. The visor above you blocks the sunlight and glare, allowing you to see clearly. When you don’t have the visor, you can still see, but it is much more difficult with the sun in your eyes. The batter’s eye acts as the visor, and it is always there.
Little league does not have as much of a need for a batter’s eye at fields. Some high schools will have them, depending on the quality of the school or baseball program. College is the level where a batter’s eye becomes more often than not. The professional ranks will always have a batter’s eye.
The big solid wall in center field isn’t there for any reason. It is placed specifically for the safety of hitters and to give them an even edge against the pitcher. The pitcher can clearly see his target and the hitter should be able to as well. Throw in the pearls that professional players use every pitch, and it becomes a wonder how hitters are not successful all the time. That’s why the pitcher has a multitude of pitches as explained before. The batter’s eye just helps level the playing field.