Lake Buena Vista, Fla. – It got to a point last season where Braves center fielder Nate McLouth struggled to see signals that catcher Brian McCann was giving the pitcher.
But he never mentioned it to anyone, and never indicated that his eyesight might have contributed to a 20-point decline in his batting average from 2008 and 61-point decline in slugging percentage.
“It’s something I didn’t want to make a big deal out of,” McLouth said Friday after a round of batting practice in the covered cage at Dark Star. “Sometimes that happens to people, you know? … I’ve always had good eyesight in my family, so I never went to the eye doctor growing up. Ever. My parents didn’t and my brothers didn’t.
“It got to the point where I kind of thought something was wrong, but didn’t want to say anything. And I knew contacts were hard to get used to, so I didn’t want to start wearing them [late during] the season.”
But when he noticed that street signs appeared fuzzy as he was making an all-night drive home to Michigan after the season finale, McLouth knew it was time.
“So the first week after the season, I went down to the University of Michigan, to the eye doctor down there, and got contacts,” he said. “And I’ve been wearing them ever since.”
McLouth reported to spring training with pitchers and catchers, several days before other position players were due. He’s eager to see how much contacts will help him at the plate and in the outfield. Last season he hit .239 in night games and .295 in day games.
“At night when there were a lot of lights, things started to kind of blur together, especially from a distance,” he said. “And now, with the contacts, it’s been great.”