PEORIA, Ariz. -- As a 22-year-old in the big leagues for the first time, there were, as you might expect, many times last season when Padres catcher Austin Hedges wished he could slow the game down.
"It's not that easy, though," Hedges said. "There are only so many ways that you can slow the game down."
Hedges may have found another way.
Hedges and Padres strength and conditioning coach Brett McCabe started playing with a pair of Nike strobe glasses in the offseason, after Hedges saw Golden State Warriors' guard Steph Curry using them for drills, dribbling a tennis ball with one hand and a basketball with the other.
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The two have devised a way for catchers to use the glasses during drills, with the intent of overloading the central nervous system and improving read-and-react time.
The glasses offer eight different settings (easy to difficult) that control how long the lenses are open, as they flicker from clear to opaque.
The drill the team has used this past week involves the catcher facing a wall in his crouch as a coach stands behind him with a tennis ball. The coach bounces a tennis ball off the wall with the catcher attempting to grab it with his bare hand.
"Since you don't know where it's coming from you've got to kind of react to it," Hedges said. "Honestly, it's one of the few drills I've ever done that when you put the glasses on it actually slows the game down.
"Doing it without [the glasses on] is tough enough, doing it with is really hard. But when you take the glasses off, it's like slow motion. [The drill] becomes really easy."
Hedges said that once the glasses are removed, trying to catch that same tennis ball almost looks like a beach ball.
McCabe said it took between four and six weeks to find the best way to use the glasses to help catchers. McCabe said the team hasn't ruled out having position players use the glasses during some hitting drills.
Hedges already thinks the glasses are a hit, and he plans to keep using them throughout camp.
"We call them failure drills, drills you're supposed to [struggle with]. But over time, you start getting good at them," Hedges said. "If you see a live pitch from someone nasty like Tyson Ross, maybe that sinker isn't as tough to catch because you've been doing certain drills that test your reactions.
"I kind of started liking more failure drills. You can do easy drills, but it's not going to get you a whole lot better. This is really testing yourself on something you are not very good at it and eventually getting good at it."