Eyes on the Ball with the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy

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We love making a difference in people’s lives. We don’t just say that either – we mean it. When we hear stories about how an eye exam opened opportunities for a child in school, or how a new pair of glasses made all the difference in a job interview, it reminds us of how what we do each and every day has real and tangible impact.

VSP employees supporting the event in DC.

For the kids at the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy, the difference an eye doctor can make in their lives goes way beyond what happens between the foul lines. For the third year, VSP Global partnered with VSP network doctor Keith Smithson, OD, to provide children in need with access to eye care on board an Eyes of Hope mobile clinic in Washington, D.C.

“Although our name, the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy, implies that we are a baseball or even a sports-focused organization, we implement a balanced curriculum that also emphasizes academics and enrichment,” said Katina Lee, Senior Director of Operations for the Academy, which supports boys and girls in grades 3-8 from local communities. “Hosting an event like VSP’s Eyes of Hope provides many of our scholar-athletes with needed prescription lenses that will help them on and off the field.”

A student athlete tries on a new pair of Nike frames.

Dr. Smithson is a pediatric and sports vision specialist who practices at Northern Virginia Doctors of Optometry and works with the Washington Nationals and other D.C.-area sports teams. His goal in helping organize this event was to bridge two things he’s passionate about—eye care and sports—for those in need.

“We saw athletes here today who aren’t seeing well out of one eye,” Dr. Smithson told us.  “They might have passed their pediatrician’s physical and ’taken a peek’ but those kids are going to struggle with depth perception or focus when they are trying to hit a baseball, as well as have potential struggles in other aspects of their lives, particularly school.”

Dr. Keith Smithson delivers an eye exam.

As part of a comprehensive eye exam from Dr. Smithson and his team of volunteer doctors, kids took a functional vision test with an eye-tracking technology called RightEye to identify vision skill issues such as their right and left eyes not functioning together or reacting slowly to an incoming ball. To help correct their vision issues, RightEye is providing the children with ongoing access to computer-based vision training exercises.

All scholar-athletes in attendance received a pair of Nike Skylon Ace XV Jr sunglasses. Those who needed prescription glasses were outfitted with Nike eyewear with SunSync Light-Reactive Lenses. These lenses quickly darken in sunlight and return to clear indoors, so the kids can enjoy them anytime of day.

A student athlete in his new Nike Skylon Ace XV Jr sunglasses.

“This is what we get into this profession for – to help people. Finding people in need and getting them access to care is an incredible opportunity,” said Dr. Smithson.

We couldn’t agree more.

Special thanks for Washington Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon for coming out and supporting our efforts. For more about VSP Global Eyes of Hope, please visit our website.

The VSP team, Dr. Smithson, and Anthony Rendon.


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