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Daytime glare leaves Hamilton flying blind

Tim Brown
Yahoo Sports

ANAHEIM, Calif. – Josh Hamilton's(notes) eyes aren't simply blue, but an opaque aquamarine, the color of thrice diluted Windex.

So, by hue, somewhere between Liz Taylor and your neighbor's Siberian Husky.

Chances are, neither of them could pick up and then hit a slider before dusk either.

Hamilton, one of baseball's most forceful and elegant and productive hitters, is batting .111 in day games. Against left-handed pitchers during the day, when, as the left-handed hitter said, "Your focus level has to go up big time," Hamilton is 0 for 21.

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Josh Hamilton went 0 for 3 with two strikeouts on July 10 against Oakland. He fanned in the eighth inning against a lefty.
(Getty Images)

Hamilton blames his blue eyes.

Either that, or the defending American League MVP is a vampire.

He's tried lubricating his eyes and "scrubbing" his eyes with solutions. He's hit with sunglasses on and sunglasses off, sometimes – like Thursday afternoon in Anaheim – in the same game.

Yet, come starters Jon Lester(notes) of Boston, Danny Duffy(notes) of Kansas City, David Price(notes) of Tampa Bay, Francisco Liriano(notes) of Minnesota, or Jon Niese of New York, come relievers Johnny Venters of Atlanta, Mike Gonzalez of Baltimore, Brian Fuentes(notes) of Oakland, or Scott Downs(notes) of Los Angeles, the oh-fers against lefties continue, 21 in a row, eight by strikeout, and all of four balls hit out of the infield.

You can't hit what you can't see, so the saying goes, and Hamilton – a .306 hitter against lefties at night and a .299 hitter overall – squints and stares and blinks and tears up and makes outs.

"I don't have enough information or experience with it yet to have an answer," Hamilton said.

He knows what his doctor has told him, that people with blue eyes are more susceptible to daytime brightness than those with, say, brown eyes. Most people with blue eyes aren't hitting third for the Texas Rangers.

"The key," Hamilton said, "is getting your eyes to relax."

But, what he sees is glare – off the white ball, the white uniforms, the white plate, the white shirtsleeves in the crowd.

And it seems to be worsening. Last season, when Hamilton batted a league-high .359, he hit a respectable .286 during the day.

Across the major leagues, batting averages (.252) and on-base percentages (.318) are identical in day games and night games. Most hitters seem to prefer day games, when they aren't relying on artificial lighting to pick up the baseball.

That doesn't help Hamilton, who keeps a stack of sunglasses in his locker, has worn various models during batting practice in preparation for introducing them into games, and still struggles.

"I don't know what's next," he said. "But, since I have an actual plan now, we'll stick with it for a while. I want to do well."

Hamilton, of course, is a critical part of the Rangers' hopes to return to the World Series. He is their best hitter. He bats third. He is an excellent outfielder and baserunner.

And the Rangers have as many as 17 day games remaining, some of them almost certainly against left-handed pitchers. If they hold off the Los Angeles Angels in the AL West, they'll likely play some day games in the playoffs, as well.

Rangers manager Ron Washington could not bench Hamilton during day games, even if his oh-fer against lefties and general daytime struggles continue.

"I don't know what he's seeing, what he's not seeing," Washington said. "I know one thing for sure: We don't want him to use that as an excuse. Just give us what you got.

"If he doesn't get no hits, run something down [in left field]. Take a walk. Steal a base. … Even if he doesn't get a hit, his presence makes a difference."

He could, however, move Hamilton down in the batting order, particularly against left-handers. But, he won't.

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On June 25, Josh Hamilton wore colored contact lenses for a day game against the Mets. He struck out all four at-bats, the first three wearing the red-tinted lenses.
(US Presswire)

"Nope," Washington said. "Never thought of that. The three-hole is going to be where he's going to be on my watch. It might be something different on somebody else's watch. But not on mine."

So, Hamilton goes home and scrubs the dried sweat from his eyelids, and lubricates his corneas, returns and runs through his sunglasses – Yellow lens? Black lens? Amber? – and then tries to pick the little white ball out of all the big white backgrounds.

Little has worked, but he's just getting started on the treatments, and perhaps there is an answer out there, something more manageable than summoning clouds and eclipses.

"Well, I try not to think about it," he said, then laughed and waved his hand across the heap of eye drop bottles, eye-black containers and sunglasses at the bottom of his locker.

The sun will come up every day, and it will shine on most of them. On a few of those days there will be baseball games, and in them Hamilton will bat third. Maybe he'll be wearing sunglasses. Maybe he won't.

It's enough to make him a little, you know, blue.