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Jake Peavy on The Bradfo Show: Reading signs ‘really the only thing I struggle with’ vision-wise

06.03.14 at 2:52 pm ET
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Red Sox pitcher Jake Peavy joined Rob Bradford on The Bradfo Show to discuss the challenge of being a legally blind pitcher in Major League Baseball. To hear the interview, go to the Bradfo Show audio on demand page.

Peavy battled his poor eyesight throughout his early childhood but didn’t address the issue until he was in second grade. That was when he finally got his glasses.

“The day I went and got my glasses, the biggest thing they could put on the screen was that ‘E.’ It’s that big block that takes up the whole screen,” Peavy said. “For some reason I thought it was a full-on rectangle with some lines in it and I told the doctor as a second-grader I’d never seen that before. My mother starts crying at this point in time.

“Then I get these glasses. It was a life-changing day. I get in the car with my mother and obviously I could see things I’d never seen before. Once again it made her terribly sad, she felt like the worst parent alive.”

Peavy added: “It’s a crazy thing and unfortunate thing that I have such stigmatisms, thin retinas in my eyes. The shape of them, I’€™m not a candidate for laser surgery so I haven’€™t had that able to be done, and the best they can really get my eyes is about 20-40.”

Peavy’s eyesight gave him trouble in his start last Wednesday against the Braves. As it got darker outside, it became harder for him to read signs from catcher David Ross.

“I knew it was going to be tough because you’€™re starting the game, it’€™s 7:10, which there’€™s still some good light out at 7:10, it’€™s only going to get worse and darker in between David’s legs where he’€™s giving the signs,” he said. “I knew there was going to be a problem about the third or fourth inning when it truly got dark.

‘€œWe’€™re throwing the ball and making it do the slightest of movements, and all that matters is if the catcher doesn’t know that then he obviously can’€™t frame the pitch and catch the pitch right, so called strikes are hard to get. And if you get runners on base, you can’€™t miss the sign because the ball is going to go to the backstop.

‘€œMe and David had to improvise. If I could tell you guys and let you guys into our signals to each other, we were pretty locked in on our body movements, winks, touches, we were doing it all.

Peavy said reading signs is the only thing that gives him trouble on the mound.

“It’€™s really the only thing I struggle with,” he said. “I see the ball well enough off the bat and everything else. It’€™s just the fingers are so small and so dark and we’€™re trying to hide them from the other team. Everybody, from third and first base coaches, are trying to steal those signs.

“You’re obviously very secretive about giving them. What people don’t notice is your index finger pointing down to your left leg is a fastball. Well, a cutter to the other side of the plate is just the same thing with your pinky down, running down your right leg. If you can’€™t see very well, you could just as easily see one of those fingers then it’€™s a completely different pitch going a completely different way, which we’ve covered, is big.”

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