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Clearly, Boggs likes his outlook

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 23, 1999


ST. PETERSBURG -- Wade Boggs has 3,000 hits in his sights this season, and he is going to see the milestone coming in sharper focus.

Boggs had laser eye surgery, known as LASIK, on Feb. 4 to correct moderate nearsightedness. He reported to the Devil Rays training camp Monday and said the procedure went very well and that his vision is 20/10, better than when he wore contacts.

"It's fabulous," Boggs said. "Crystal clear."

Boggs has taken batting practice the past two weeks with what he said were impressive results. "It's been unbelievable," he said.

What essentially is cosmetic surgery may seem risky for a player 78 hits shy of a milestone that will ensure his induction to the Hall of Fame. But Boggs didn't, um, see it that way.

"It was one of those spur-of-the-moment things," he said. "I was contemplating having it done at the end of the season. I was tired of wearing glasses at night and contacts during the day."

During a Jan. 28 team publicity stop in Ocala, Boggs talked with John Brantley, an insurance salesman and brother of Scot Brantley, the ex-Bucs linebacker and radio talk show host. John Brantley recently had the surgery done by Dr. Tony Prado of Tampa's Omega Eye Associates, and he recommended it highly. Boggs went in for a consultation Feb. 1, a Monday, and three days later he was under the laser for the procedure, which reshapes the cornea by removing cells. "I said, "Well, Columbus took a chance, too -- let's do it,' " Boggs said.

wade boggs Wade boggs takes the field with better vision this spring.
[Times photo: Jonathan Newton]

"I was very comfortable with the consultation I had on Monday. I asked about all the horror stories and what could go wrong, and I felt that nothing could go wrong."

Boggs, 40, didn't inform the Rays he was having the procedure (nothing in his contract requires him to do so), and team officials were a bit surprised to hear about it. "I'm pretty sure they would have tried to talk me out of it," Boggs said. "Larry (Rothschild, manager) was pretty shocked."

Said Rothschild: "He told me that he had it done, and my reaction, my first question, was, "Did it work?' "

And if Boggs had told him ahead of time? "I wouldn't have wanted to know," Rothschild said.

Before the surgery, Boggs had 20/30 vision in his right eye and 20/40 in his left. With contacts, he was corrected to 20/12.

Dr. Sal Musumeci, director of Omega Eye Associates, said Boggs' procedure, which took about five seconds for each eye plus preparation, went extremely well and no additional surgery is needed.

"He's clear," Musumeci said. "People who have over a certain amount of correction may have to go back and have an enhancement, but we have not seen anyone that has had to go back and need a touch-up at his level."

Laser surgery has quickly become popular in and out of baseball. Players who recently have had it done include Arizona's Bernard Gilkey, Pittsburgh's Al Martin and San Diego's Wally Joyner.

Boggs has worn soft contacts while playing since 1991 and has had considerable success at the plate, hitting .305 over the past eight seasons. He said he doesn't know how much his improved vision will help his performance but figures it can't hurt and that he certainly will be more comfortable.

"The thing about having contacts is that you're looking through a water-based type of apparatus in your eye, and when you blink there's a certain recovery time of blurriness," he said. "Now there's nothing in my eye that's blocking anything. There's just clarity."

Except for his enhanced vision, Boggs said nothing else will change as he enters his 18th and likely historic big-league season.

"It's business as usual," he said. "I'm not going to approach it any different than I have any other year. You can't lose focus."

But you can make it better.

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