Whether instructing hitting or fielding, baseball coaches consistently tell players to keep their eyes on the ball. Sacramento infielder Eric Sogard keeps four eyes on the ball.
It may not be the improvement Charlie Sheen’s character Ricky Vaughn saw in the movie “Major League,” but Sogard believes he is “winning” with his spectacles.
“It’s something I’ve been doing since my sophomore year of high school,” said Sogard, the River Cats leadoff batter and shortstop. “I just see the ball better with them on.”
Although contacts are a quick fix for most players, Sogard found early on that he feels most comfortable with glasses. So, in his sophomore year at Thunderbird High in Phoenix, he made the switch to glasses. He used contacts in the classroom, but when he got to the field, he came with his glove, bat and glasses in hand.
“I would go to school with the contacts on and practice and play games with my glasses,” he said.
What he did was working, as Sogard was ranked as the seventh-best prep prospect in Arizona out of high school in 2004. Sogard played for Arizona State from 2005-2007, where he hit .371, including a .400 average and 100 hits in 2007. After the season, Sogard was drafted in the second round of the 2007 MLB Draft by the San Diego Padres, a team 350 miles down the road.
After moving around the Minors from 2007-09, Sogard has landed in Sacramento the last two seasons. Last season, “Sogie,” as he is known around the clubhouse, hit .300 with 65 RBIs and 82 runs.
“His game’s not going to wow you,” said River Cats Hitting Coach Todd Steverson. “It’s consistent. He’s a pest, and he just ends up grinding you. He doesn’t strike out a lot. He puts the ball in play. That’s the best way to go.”
Sogard could have hit .400 with 40 home runs and his teammates would still find a way to poke fun.
“I’ve been called Harry Potter, The Mad Scientist, little nicknames like that,” Sogard said. “But it’s all in good fun.”
There have been a few situations in Sacramento when his glasses became an issue. It happened last season at a very in-opportune time for Sogard.
“I was on deck and I was bending my glasses when they just snapped,” Sogard said. “The next swing was a hit by (Michael) Taylor so I didn’t have a lot of time. Luckily I always have an extra pair in the clubhouse so someone ran in and grabbed them for me.”
It’s not common that MLB players sport seeing-eye glasses; Sogard looks to add his name to the short list of players. Last year in Oakland, he played in four games where he hit for .429 in seven at bats. This season, Sogard is hitting .288 with a team-high 49 runs and 13 steals through July 6.
“I don’t care what he wears up there,” Steverson said. “He can wear a facemask with a prescription in it for all I care, as long as he keeps swinging the way he does.”