Scottsdale, Arizona —— It’s been more than a year now since Detroit Tigers catching prospect Grayson Greiner had Lasik eye surgery—and the difference it has made on his career goes as far as the eye can see.
Remember, this is the same University of South Carolina product that hit just .183/.254/.250/.504 in 89 games in 2015 with the High-A Lakeland Flying Tigers. One eye surgery later, he turned around last summer and slashed .312/.385/.367/.752 in 31 games back in Lakeland before earning a promotion to the Double-A Erie SeaWolves. Add a .288/.320/.462/.782 slash line in 59 games at Erie to finish 2016, and a trip to the prestigious Arizona Fall League during this offseason, and it’s easy to see that Greiner’s eye surgery made at least some difference on his career heading into last season.
Then again, you must do more than get your eyes right if you have any hope of hitting professional pitching.
“That Lasik eye surgery last offseason, that was great, I recommend that to anyone,” Greiner told Baseball Census as he wrapped up his tenure in the Arizona Fall League in November. “But really, it came down to me putting in work. I realized that what I hit in 2015 wasn’t going to work. I was going to have to work really hard to get to the big leagues and it wasn’t going to happen hitting whatever I hit that year.”
“So I totally revamped my swing [in 2016] and I added a leg kick for a timing mechanism, and it worked pretty well for me in Lakeland and got me moved up to Erie,” he continued. “I gained some confidence with that, and confidence is everything in this game. If you can get some confidence, that can get a lot of things going for you.”
The eye surgery in and of itself is a fascinating adjustment for Grayson Greiner to make, as well as a sort of wait-a-minute-how-did-you-even-hit-before-this realization for an outsider to digest. After all, if it took up until a year ago for Greiner to start seeing the ball, there must be an incredible amount of raw talent in the big, strong catcher to overcome his relative night blindness at South Carolina and then in the Tigers’ system for two seasons.
“I wore contacts for ten or twelve years, and I could see, but at night sometimes the glare would really mess with me, or my eyes would dry out,” Greiner said. “But now, being able to wake up and go through the entire day with no issues, and my eyes never dry out, that changes everything.”
“As a hitter, I had always been able to hit fastballs better than breaking balls, but now I’m able to pick up the breaking ball a little bit earlier, and I’m able to wait back on it,” he continued. “I feel like that’s going to pay off for me, and I’d really recommend it to anyone who plays any sport. It’s worth the money, especially considering my career literally depends on me being able to see the baseball coming at 95 miles an hour. This was a no-brainer.”
A no-brainer indeed, proven both by Greiner’s resurrection in 2016 on into the AFL, and his ability to stick in this spring’s big league camp deep into March before the Tigers decided to send him back to the minor leagues for more playing time. (Smart money has Greiner spending at least the start of 2017 with the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens in preparation for some future big league catching time.)
Just don’t think all this good cheer entering 2017 comes from an eye surgery alone.
“I let all the distractions outside the game take a backseat to what I needed to focus on,” Greiner recalled of his now one solid year’s worth of clear focus in every way.
“I changed my workouts. I did boxing lessons every morning for four months, and that really changed my body and got me in a better baseball state. You combine that with the eye surgery, and just working my tail off offensively, working off the machine, hitting flips, hitting tees, whatever it took to get more comfortable with a new swing and yeah, it paid dividends for me.”
And don’t think the dividends of 2016 will carry into 2017, either.
As good a season as he had last year, Grayson Greiner is ready to completely re-prove his worth in 2017 with a new goal in sight—and maybe that’s the way it should be.
“These days, it’s what have you done for me lately,” he said. “The Tigers, or any organization, they’re not looking at what I did in 2016, they look at what I’m doing in 2017, and then in 2018. Yeah, last year was good for me to build confidence, but I’m going to put last year behind me in the same way I put 2015 behind me. I get to start 2017 with a clean slate and do the best I can to reach the Major League level.”
Whatever the new motivation, and however the new challenges of 2017 may go, at least one thing is clear: Grayson Greiner’s bright future is coming quickly into focus.