by Dan Roberts
(Information furnished by Gregg Helmsing)
He is legally blind, but he could put a baseball bat in your hands and have you hitting home runs in no time. He can’t see the bat connect with the ball, but he will tell you if it was a good hit. He is Mark Wetzel from Omaha, Nebraska, and he began to lose his central vision to macular degeneration when he was fourteen. Most kids would have quit when they couldn’t see the ball anymore, but not Mark. At the age of fifteen, he became a coach.
Since then, using only his peripheral vision, he has tutored record setters and improved batting averages of players from Little League to professional as they take their turns with him in his home-made batting cages. He has coached Chris Hatcher (now with the Kansas City Royals), a college team from Pennsylvania, and high school teams and individuals from all over the Midwest. And in 1998, he worked as batting coach for the Omaha Royals AAA farm team. He charges for his services in order to supplement the income from his dog boarding business, and he dreams of possibly using his talents someday as an advisor for special baseball events or even in the movie industry.
“Seeing isn’t everything,” says Mark. By looking above your head, he can analyze and adjust your stance, and by listening to the crack of the bat he knows if you have been paying attention. There are nearly six million of us “macular degenerates” in the United States, and we should all be paying attention to this man. Now nearing fifty, he likes to say, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” That is the kind of inspiration he gives to his batters, and it works just as well for us, too.
Thank you, Mark, for not giving up, and thank you for showing us how it’s done.