Even the most diehard observer of the Orioles minor leagues may not know his name.
That’s okay with Lance West. And this will probably be a real good season for him with Aberdeen this summer even if he doesn’t get one hit.
Because, for the first time in his life, he’ll be playing baseball with sight in both eyes.
“I was blind in my left eye, my dominant eye. I had a rough season last year, so I went to see a doctor and found out I had a lazy eye I was born with and it never developed.
“They did some therapy stuff and put some contacts in. Did some stuff to strengthen it and now it’s up to 20-30 (vision in the eye). And it’s still getting stronger,” the 22-year-old West said.
A 39th-round draft pick two years ago out of San Jacinto Junior College in Texas, West hit .186-8-30 in 172 at bats in 2008 and 2009 with Bluefield and Aberdeen.
“My whole life, I’ve only seen with one eye. When I was about six, my oldest brother hit me with a baseball bat and knocked my eye out. I actually thought that was always the problem.
“I went to a doctor in high school. I guess he wasn’t a very good doctor, he said there was all nerve damage and I’d never get it fixed. I went to another doctor (this off season) and he determined what it was and we got it fixed.”
So the problem had never been getting hit at six by that baseball bat.
“No not all, it was actually before that. I was born with a lazy eye. Now I am seeing the ball much better, it’s like night and day.
“They put a series of contacts in to strengthen it and I was going to an eye therapist, doing certain eye therapy exercises to get better.”
West began the therapy on his eye about a month after last season ended near his home in Shreveport, Louisiana.
The improved vision produced solid results in extended spring training games.
“My two strike approach has gotten amazing. Last year, when I saw a ball, I’d see it here and it’s actually here (he held his hands about six inches apart). When I hit the ball I was actually guessing and pulling off the ball and getting lucky. When I actually tried to track the ball, I’d swing and miss because I was not seeing the actual ball. That’s no more and it’s nice.
“Now I am hitting a lot better. I was really working on my two strike approach a lot down there, so my power wasn’t there. That was fine, the power will come. I was putting the ball in play a whole more than I had in the past.
“I actually had tunnel vision. I honestly could only see here (pretty much straight ahead). That was normal to me. Now I have peripheral vision and I actually have depth perception. It’s nice.
“They laughed when I told them I was an outfielder, because I had no depth perception. But God takes care of you, you know. Got me here.”
West is a 6’3”, 225-pound, right-handed hitter. He said the IronBirds that were together in extended spring formed a solid bond and he’s looking for a good season as Aberdeen plays its season opener at home tonight at 7:35 vs. Hudson Valley.
“It’s a great group of guys and I think we have the chance to have a fantastic year. This is a great place to play, I love everything about it.”
After playing in 13 games with Aberdeen in 2009, West will get to experience baseball again this summer at beautiful Ripken Stadium. He’ll probably enjoy the view better as well.