Why do baseball players put black under their eyes ? MLB and baseball players with paint under their eyes is a common sight on the diamond. However, in addition to the black eye paint helping to set the warrior mood in the stadium, it serves a more direct purpose and one useful in the MLB and across baseball stadiums across the country.
Below, we are going to look at just why MLB and baseball players wear black paint under their eyes, how this black paint helps them to play better, and whether or not you should adopt the style.
What is the Black Paint That MLB Players Wear Under Their Eyes?
In the MLB, as with the NFL, you’ll often see a majority of the players wearing black paint beneath their eyes. This paint is called eye black, and it is a grease or strip, that is applied directly beneath the eyes to help reduce glare.
Often used by athletes who play in outdoor fields and stadiums, such as baseball, football, softball, and lacrosse, the eye black is meant to help reduce the glare caused by the sun shining above the stadium.
You typically won’t see athletes who play in indoor stadiums, such as basketball players, applying eye black beneath their eyes. The reason why basketball players and other athletes who play in indoor stadiums don’t wear eye black is because they do not have to worry about the glare from the sun affecting their play and performance on the field.
However, the reason why athletes, such as baseball and football athletes, wear eye black is because they are more susceptible to the affects of the sun’s glare, given that their stadiums and arenas are mostly played in an outdoor setting.
Does Eye Black Work?
Perhaps the most common question asked regarding eye black is, does it work?
However, the answer to the question is a bit complicated.
To date, there have been three major studies conducted on the effectiveness of eye black. The first, in 2003, was conducted by Brian DeBroff and Patricia Pahk. The two were looking to see whether eye black had anti-glare properties.
To do this, they divided test subjects into three categories. One were wearers of eye black, the second were wearers of anti-glare stickers, and the third were wearers of petroleum jelly. The subjects’ were tested using an eye chart while simultaneously being exposed to natural light.
In that study, the researchers concluded that eye black reduced glare of the sun and improved contrast sensitivity. Similarly, anti-glare stickers and petroleum jelly were found to be ineffective against glare.
However, the test was subject to unavoidable bias, in that the test subjects knew which category they were a part of and could have unconsciously changed their responses during the test.
The second study was done by Benjamin R. Powers at the University of New Hampshire. Powers improved on DeBroff’s methods and found eye black to reduce glare from the sun in women and in those whose eye-color was not blue. The study also tested males and blue-eyed subjects. However, the results were not statistically significant.
And lastly, the show MythBusters ran the test in one of their episodes. The shows hosts, Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman tested whether eye black reduces glare and they determined that while it does not, it does improve an athlete’s ability to differentiate between light and dark and the athlete’s ability to track moving objects in a sunny field.
Should You Wear Eye Black?
While the three main tests were somewhat inconclusive on the effects of wearing eye black, DeBroff, of the original study, himself said to The New York Times, “it can’t hurt”, to do so. And while that may not be a great answer, there is more to wearing eye black than just anti-glare properties.
Again, as BeDroff would say, “I thought we would find it to be like war paint and a psychological advantage more than anything else.”
That is, while the studies conducted on eye black were relatively inconclusive, the sheer act of putting the substance on your face can have a psychological impact on the result of your game. By placing the eye black beneath your eyes, you are subconsciously preparing for the game and dressing as a warrior for your team.
As Brandon Murray, a halfback who plays in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, would say in the same article, “It’s just the look. Most kids think it’s intimidating or it looks good. No one uses it to block out the light.”
But that sentiment is not shared by all athletes.
Jerricho Cotchery, a former NFL player who played for the New York Jets, the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the Carolina Panthers said that playing without eyes grease was like “playing with no shoulder pad or no helmet.”
He would further expound by stating, “I don’t know if it was one of those placebo effects, but it was one of those things that stuck with me.”
However, as many more players would also state, if eye black provides even a small statistical advantage, then what is the harm in using it?
Similarly, Nick Ciccone, a safety at Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania would say to The Times, “”It’s a fashion thing now. A lot of guys say, if you look good, you feel good, and if you feel good, you play good.”
Best Eye Black to Use for a Baseball Game
While the results were inconclusive, we personally have been fans of eye black for years now. The psychological affect alone is powerful enough to convince us to purchase a bottle. But the industry has come a long way from when eye black was used from burnt cork and shoe polish.
Easton Eye Black for Baseball – Easton is our top recommendation for the best eye black for baseball players. Easy to apply and remove, the container comes in a tube reminiscent of chapstick. Thick and dark when applied, it is also sweat, smear, and water proof.
Art of Sport Eye Black – we’ve always been fans of the Art of Sport brand and had to give them a chance when they first came out with their line of eye black. Containing a non-bleed formulation, the black color really goes on smoothly and sticks in place. Extremely easy to wash off after the game, this formula is made with mineral oil and is paraben and fragrance free.
Rawlings Eye Black Stickers – if you’re not a fan of eye black as a paint substance, we’d recommend Rawlings Eye Black Stickers. These stickers can be applied directly beneath your eyes and provide the same look and feel as traditional eye black. Coming in a case of 12, you’ll be able to look and feel ready for your next baseball game.
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