The One-Eyed Pitcher, and “Ichiro Goes to the Moon”

Some links for your perusal, if you happen to be traveling along the Information Highway today. Is the Internet still called the “Information Highway”? Why are we still capitalizing “Internet”? So many questions.

The New York Times, they’re up first, with Learning to See the Strike Zone With One Eye, the story of Southeast Missouri State pitcher Jordan Underwood, who lost an eye after being hit in the face with a line drive.

Three weeks after a line drive crashed into his face and destroyed his left eye, Jordan Underwood sat at Logan’s Roadhouse in Oklahoma City and decided his tea needed some sweetener. He opened a packet, extended his arm to the glass and proceeded to pour sugar all over the table.

“That’s the first time I was, I guess, mad,” said Underwood, then a control pitcher at an Oklahoma junior college. “It really hit me. I was going to have to make some adjustments.”

Some adjustments. Less than two years later, with one eye, Underwood is the ace of a Division I program school, with a 2.76 ERA in five starts this season.

Underwood endured no elaborate tests, no procedures, no exercises ocular or otherwise. Rather than triumph over science, experts say, he has merely reinforced it.

Underwood was told this could happen by the woman who designed his prosthetic eye, Nancy Townsend of Dean McGee Eye Institute in Oklahoma City. She insisted he could play baseball with only one eye.

How could she be so sure? Because in 1978, after losing an eye herself as a teenager, Townsend played first base and left field in Canada’s women’s fast-pitch softball tournament.

“If I could hit, he could pitch,” Ms. Townsend said. “The mind is a wonderful thing.”

Experts say that two human eyes help the brain discern depth to about 20 feet; beyond that, one eye is adequate.

Given that the strike zone, 60 feet 6 inches away, is essentially a static rectangle with no depth, doctors are not shocked Underwood has been able to pitch, and pitch better than he ever had before.

According to the article, Underwood’s “subpar fastball” will keep him from being drafted in June, but just the fact that he’s on the mound and pitching, I think, is a rather remarkable story.

Alas, Underwood cannot do everything on a baseball field well. He cannot hit, for example.

“I’m terrible,” he said with a laugh. Because of the depth-perception issue, presumably.

“No,” he said. “Because I’m a pitcher.”

Pitch on, Mr. Underwood. Pitch on.

Next up, National Public Radio, and their story about The Baseball Project, a band:

… less as an indie-rock all-star team than as a bunch of aging veterans proving they still have the stuff. Co-leaders Scott McCaughey and Steve Wynn, best-known for 20th century stints in the alt-rock groups Young Fresh Fellows and The Dream Syndicate, share more than a musical history. As devout baseball fans, they share an American mythology.

I like to think that we, those who visit, read and make up the FanGraphs community, also share an American mythology. Just a much nerdier one.

Also featuring R.E.M.’s Peter Buck on bass and drummer Linda Pitmon, The Baseball Project writes topical songs that honor cultural memory, with music that’s tuneful rather than forward-looking.

Click through to listen to “Ichiro Goes to the Moon,” and “1976,” a number about pitcher Mark Fidrych, whose 1976 campaign was the season of dreams, and The Bird’s untimely death.

If you’re in the Phoenix area for the final days of Spring Training, and are digging The Baseball Project, you’re in luck: They’ll be playing gigs at fake games this coming week. Here’s their schedule.

Opening Day’s less than two weeks away. I’m ready.

Thanks to NPB Tracker‘s Patrick Newman for passing along the link re: The Baseball Project. Long live National Public Radio. And props to you too, Harry How, of Getty Images, for the image way up top.

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Navin Vaswani is a replacement-level writer. Follow him on Twitter.

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Awesome post. Great links.