Keep your eye on the ball.
It’s a common teaching point for young baseball players. But for Tresden Gonsior, Central City/Fullerton/Centura’s senior all-everything player who goes by Tres, it means a bit more to him than the average player.
That’s because while most everyone in the batter’s box is watching the ball’s approach with both eyes, Gonsior mostly uses his left.
Gonsior was born with Amblyopia. A quick Google search says it’s a disorder of sight in which the brain fails to process inputs from one eye and over time favors the other eye. It results in decreased vision in an eye — in Gonsior’s case, his right — that otherwise typically appears normal.
“So, some people have 20/20 vision,” Gonsior explained. “In my left eye, I have 20/15, which is better than some people. But my right eye, I don’t know what the exact number is, but that big E on the (Snellen Eye) chart, I can see certain letters with my right eye but not all of them.”
That would lead many to assume Gonsior struggles in sports, especially ones that deal a lot with hand-eye coordination, right?
Gonsior, a Fullerton product, is hitting .452 at the plate with 28 runs-batted-in and two home runs for the Class B state-bound Kernels, both of which rank second on the team. According to MaxPreps.com, he’s fifth in the state with an on-base percentage of .585. He’s committed to play baseball at the University of Sioux Falls, where he’ll look to pitch and play shortstop.
On the mound, the right-handed Gonsior owns a 2.86 earned-run average. In 41 2/3 innings of work, he has 62 strikeouts against 22 walks. That’s coming against the best competition Central City/Fullerton/Centura has played this season. The Kernels have played six games against teams in the top-20 of the NSAA’s power points — that’d be Hastings, Seward, Adams Central (twice), Wayne and Omaha Gross Catholic — and Gonsior pitched against all of them.
Gonsior loves being on the mound. It’s his favorite part of baseball.
“You get the opportunity to have the ball in your hand every play and the game kind of revolves around you when you’re pitching,” he said.
Gonsior throws a fastball, curveball and change-up. Against Branched Oak (a co-op of Malcolm and Raymond Central), he threw a no-hitter and homered with a double, too. He’s been working on a slider, but that has some work to do before he’s confident in it. His fastball topped 87 miles per hour this past fall.
“He’s got a bulldog-type mentality. He’s got a very aggressive attitude,” Kernels’ head coach Brandon Detlefsen said. “He doesn’t back down to the competition and he’s one of those kids who doesn’t want to be taken out of a game. Even when his pitch count is up high and I go out to get him, he doesn’t want to come out. Just a competitor on the mound.”
Knowing what Gonsior’s dealing with, his success on the mound and with a bat isn’t surprising, Detlefsen said. That’s partly due to the fact that not many even know about his vision issue.
“He’s a hard worker and has adapted to it,” Detlefsen said. “Honestly, I forget he has a problem at all because he hasn’t used it as a crutch or used it as an excuse — ever. He never talks about it, even in situations where he could.”
Dr. Will Ferguson, an eye specialist at Heartland Eye Consultants in Omaha, has worked with Gonsior. Ferguson limits his practice to treatment of diseases of the eye and visual system that relate to recovering from concussions, treatment of lazy eyes and sports vision training.
In short, Ferguson does a lot of neuro-rehabilitative training. And he’s impressed with what Gonsior is able to do on the diamond.
“It’s unbelievable, because when someone throws a pitch, by the time that pitcher lets go, you have a limited amount of time to interpret the pitch, make a decision and put the bat on the ball,” Ferguson said. “So he does, clinically, lack the skills other people are using to hit, namely clarity of vision and depth perception. So whatever he lacks there, he’s making up for with something else, whether that’s body mechanics, game and situational awareness like pitch count, pitch selection or pitcher tendencies. Knowing if it’s going to be a curveball or fastball.
“So, somewhere, he’s making up for that time. It’s really impressive.”
Gonsior doesn’t know what it’s like to play baseball with two good eyes. He doesn’t let it become a big deal, either. That goes back to when he was a little kid, and his parents wanted him to wear an eye patch around the house to correct the problem. Tres fought the idea.
“I don’t really notice a difference because I’ve had it my whole life. I don’t know any other way,” Gonsior said of playing with Amblyopia. “I don’t like making excuses for it. Ever since I was little I remember my dad saying I shouldn’t use it as an excuse. It’s just what I was born with, so I just try not to make excuses about it. I just try to look past it and do the best I can.”
Gonsior has helped Central City/Fullerton/Centura become a program on the rise. Four years ago in its first season, the Kernels won just four games while playing a couple of freshmen, one of which was Gonsior. The year after that, they won eight games.
Detlefsen noticed a jump from Gonsior’s freshman to sophomore season. After struggling a bit in his first season of varsity ball, he started to hit better. Pitch better, too. Detlefsen remembers the moment when he knew Gonsior had made the leap.
The opponent was Seward. The location was York for a Legion Seniors district tournament. It was a tight ballgame, and Gonsior, who was a first-year Juniors player playing up at the time, was called on to pitch late in the contest. Gonsior was throwing accurate and hard — really hard.
“He came in on the mound and it was the hardest I’ve ever seen him throw,” Detlefsen said. “I just remember thinking, ‘Holy cow, who is this kid?’ It was like the lightbulb came on for him on the mound.”
After years of program building, the Kernels (19-5) are in the state tournament. They open with Omaha Skutt Catholic (17-6) Saturday at 4 p.m. at Werner Park in Omaha.
“We’re coming in as the underdog for sure,” Gonsior said. “All the teams on the east end of the state don’t really know us, they probably think these little towns got an easy district and snuck in. But hopefully we get down there and make some noise.”
Gonsior will be leading the way. Keeping his eyes on the prize.