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Mystified by the ability to catch a fly ball? Here's how it's done...

January 24, 2010 |  7:13 am

Fly The please-don't-let-it-come-to-me, please-don't-let-it-come-to-me crowd -- and we're certainly not pointing fingers -- may not believe some new research out of Brown University. But here it is ... The ability to catch a fly ball apparently depends neither on prescience nor midi-chlorians.

Researchers there closely watched, tracked, monitored and otherwise analyzed eight men and four women, all experienced ball players, who were asked to go after virtual fly balls. They wanted to know precisely how this feat of athletic prowess was effectively accomplished.

Their conclusion: "Perception is used to guide action by means of a continuous coupling of visual information to movement, without requiring an internal model of the ball's trajectory." This is a confirmation of the "optical acceleration cancellation" theory, they say.

In other words, players track the angle of the ball and move forward or backward to compensate.

There have been other theories too: the "mental model of trajectory" and the "linear optical trajectory." 

Here's the news release, plus the full study published recently in Journal of Vision. If you want a detailed explainer, this should satisfy.

But, we should point out, the researchers didn't actually study midi-chlorian counts.

-- Tami Dennis

Photo: Los Angeles Dodgers Andre Ethier catches a fly ball during Game 2 of the National League Championship Series in October at Dodger Stadium. As if that's all there is to it.

Credit: Alex Gallardo/Los Angeles Times