Not too long ago, we told you about Idan Ravin, a 6-foot, 38-year-old former New York lawyer who’s become a big sensation among NBA stars for his unique basketball training techniques - a “Hoops Whisperer”, if you will.
And you’re probably saying to yourself, “Wait, big-time b-ball stars taking athletic advice from a short, older ex-lawyer? The next thing you’ll tell us is that baseball players are taking hitting advice from a guy who’s been legally blind for the past 45 years.”
And I would respond, “Hey! How did you know?” Meet Mark Wetzel - a “Horsehide Whisperer”, if you will.
The ASSOCIATED PRESS has the story of Wetzel, who teaches hitting techniques at his modest training facility near his home on the outskirts of Omaha, Nebraska. He has about 50 students a week show up for his lessons - some who travel as far as 180 miles just to learn more about improving their swing.
Wetzel is a victim of macular degeneration, a condition which blurs the center of his field of vision. So he must make do with seeing shapes & outlines through his peripheral vision. And having such a condition means Mark must rely on some unusual teaching techniques:
Instead of looking directly at the batter he is instructing, he turns his head and watches him out of the corner of his eye.
“I can tell where the knob of the bat is, and I know exactly what your elbow is doing and where your head is going to go next,” Wetzel said. “I see that outline and I connect all the dots.“
You take your great running backs and point guards, and they have great peripheral vision. I’m not so sure they don’t see the body move in a different way than the average person does. You can almost see the body move before the body goes there.”
Do Wetzel’s lessons work? Just ask Tony Gwynn (pictured above with coach Mark). The former Padres slugger met Wetzel about 10 years ago, when Wetzel was visiting the San Diego dugout before a game in St. Louis. The two chatted for a bit until the subject of Gwynn’s swing came up:
Wetzel pointed out a flaw, something about the way Gwynn was pushing off with his back foot. A career .338 hitter and winner of eight National League batting titles, Gwynn said he was stunned.
“Major league hitters have egos, and my first thought was, Who is this blind guy to tell me what I’m doing wrong?” Gwynn said.
Gwynn added that he thought about what Wetzel said and discovered Wetzel was right. “I decided to go to work on it and I got it fixed,” he said.
Or you can ask Matt Macri, Wetzel’s first student to make it to the big leagues when he played in 18 games for the Twins last season:
“Guys ask me all the time how he does it; I tell them I have no idea.”
Or you can just ask The Blind Guy himself (hey, that’s what he named his own website):
“I think the good lord has given me a gift.”
Well, if you can get up to 50 students & have some travel almost 200 miles to take your lessons, you must be doing something right.