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redsmetz
04-06-2007, 08:39 AM
Interesting article in today's NY Times about a pitcher at Creighton University who pitches with both hands using a special glove that he can switch between batters. He currently has a 3.29 ERA in 18 relief appearances this season. There's a video link with the story on the Times website:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/06/sports/baseball/06pitcher.html?ref=sports

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Throwing Batters Curves Before Throwing a Pitch
By ALAN SCHWARZ

The pitch was nothing remarkable: Pat Venditte, Creighton University’s temporarily right-handed pitcher, threw a fastball past a Northern Iowa batter for a called strike three. It was his next windup that evinced this young pitcher’s uniqueness and, perhaps, professional future.

As his teammates whipped the ball around the infield, Venditte smoothly, unthinkingly, removed his custom glove from his left hand and slipped it on his right. Moments later he leaned back, threw a strike left-handed to the next batter, and finished the side in order.

Venditte is believed to be the only ambidextrous pitcher in N.C.A.A. Division I college baseball, the ultimate relief specialist. A junior, he throws left-handed to lefties and right-handed to righties, and effectively. In a home game in Omaha last Friday, he allowed only one hit in five and a third shutout innings to earn the victory against Northern Iowa.

Because neither arm was particularly tired afterward, Venditte also pitched in both games of Creighton’s doubleheader against Northern Iowa two days later, retiring the only batter he faced (left-handed) in the first game and then tossing a shutout inning (pitching both ways) in the nightcap. He also pitched two innings, alternating arms, in Tuesday’s game against archrival Nebraska. Venditte (pronounced ven-DEH-tee) has a fine 3.29 earned run average in 18 appearances this season.

“I don’t think twice about it,” said Venditte, whose father, Pat Sr., taught him to throw with both arms when he was 3. “You grew up with it, you love it, you want to keep playing as long as you can.”

Venditte has improved so much in the past year that major league scouts are starting to consider him a possible late-round pick in this June’s amateur draft because of his versatility. “He could be an economical two-for-one,” Jerry Lafferty, a longtime scout for the Philadelphia Phillies, said last Friday while assessing the 21-year-old Venditte from behind the backstop.

College baseball has had a few switch-pitchers in the past 15 years, but the major leagues have had only one since the 19th century: Greg Harris, primarily a right-handed reliever for many clubs from 1981 through 1995, pitched one inning using both arms for the Montreal Expos in his final season. That outing was considered more stunt than strategy.

Venditte is smoothly proficient from both sides. His deliveries are not mirror images of each other: as a right-hander he throws over the top and relatively hard, up to 91 miles an hour, with a tumbling curveball; as a left-hander, he relies on a whip-like sidearm delivery and a biting slider.

Umpires working Creighton’s games have to dust off seldom-used rules regarding switch-pitchers. Like everyone else, Venditte gets only eight warm-up pitches upon entering a game and five before any inning, whether he chooses to throw left-handed or right-handed, and may not warm up again if he changes arms midinning.

A switch-pitcher facing a switch-hitter could make a fine Abbott and Costello routine. Against Nebraska last year, a switch-hitter came to the plate right-handed, prompting Venditte to switch to his right arm, which caused the batter to move to the left-hand batter’s box, with Venditte switching his arm again. Umpires ultimately restored order, applying the rule (the same as that in the majors) that a pitcher must declare which arm he will use before throwing his first pitch and cannot change before the at-bat ends.

“Eventually, after 10 or 15 minutes, they got it figured out,” Venditte said with a smile.

Venditte’s customized Louisville Slugger glove is as distinctive as its owner: four fingers are flanked by two thumbs, perfectly symmetrical, so that he can slip it on either hand with ease. It allows him to change throwing arms so seamlessly during warmups — one second No. 27 is throwing left-handed, the next right-handed — that many unaware fans and opponents do double-takes.

“The first time you see him, it’s definitely a distraction,” said Northern Iowa shortstop Brandon Douglas, who struck out (right-handed) against Venditte last Friday. “On the bus ride to games people talk, ‘You should see this guy. It’s pretty neat.’ ”

Until teams actually face him, that is. Creighton’s coach, Ed Servais, initially resisted using Venditte both ways because, he said, “I am a traditionalist when it comes to baseball, and I didn’t want it to become a circus.” But Venditte proved his ability last season, when he used both arms in 22 games and struck out batters each way in 12 of them.

The Bluejays use Venditte as a long reliever so that he can be deployed at any point in any game. In the Northern Iowa game last Friday, for example, Venditte quelled a third-inning rally and then, facing a lineup that alternated its lefty and righty hitters, calmly switched throwing arms 10 times in the next five innings and allowed no runs and only one single. (Pitch limits are looser with Venditte because he shares the workload between his arms.)

“Usually you have to follow the hitter: a left-hander’s coming up, so you have to decide whether to bring a lefty in,” Creighton’s pitching coach, Rob Smith, said. “In this scenario, you have the control. It helps the depth of the bullpen a lot — you don’t have to burn a guy to get the matchup you want.”

Venditte is naturally right-handed. But his father, a former college ballplayer who at 61 still catches for his Men’s Senior Baseball League team, noticed his 3-year-old son picking up a ball and throwing it with both arms on his own, and encouraged him to pursue it.

“You’ve got to cultivate that,” said Pat Sr., who later built a batting cage, complete with lights, near the family’s home in an Italian neighborhood of Omaha.

To build his son’s muscles for baseball, Pat Sr. also taught Little Pat to punt with both legs and throw a football with both arms. “If I’d stuck with it,” he said, “he could have been a QB with both hands.”

Venditte’s mound versatility could become an interesting test of baseball’s trend toward specialization. Major league teams have long forced college stars who both pitch and hit — players like Dave Stieb, John Olerud and Brad Wilkerson — to focus on either pitching or hitting as professionals, claiming that one is difficult enough. But as bullpens become ever more segmented, with left-handed and right-handed specialists entering games for only one or two batters apiece, a pitcher who can do both for one salary would certainly be intriguing.

Venditte said he would probably return to Creighton for his senior season, trying to add a few miles an hour to his fastballs and enjoying the camaraderie of college ball. After throwing his five-plus innings last Friday, Venditte characteristically shunned ice treatment and skipped the trainer’s room. He joined the rest of his teammates by pulling the tarp across the diamond — with both hands, naturally.

nate
04-06-2007, 09:12 AM
There was a guy who pitched a few years ago for the Red Sox who could pitch ambidextrously. The Sox never let him do it in a game but there was a little feature about it on TV one night. Pretty interesting if you're a fireballing righty one at bat and a submarining lefty the next.

sonny
04-06-2007, 10:31 AM
I'd give my right arm to be ambidextrous :D

mound_patrol
04-06-2007, 10:39 AM
We got to play Creighton last year at Rosenblatt stadium. We also got to face Venditte. He faced 4 hitters. Two left, two right. He gave up a hit to our star catcher, but also struck out two. He doesn't have great stuff be any means. Throws around 84-85 right handed and 82-83 lefthanded. But it's got to be nice have a curveball breaking away from every batter you face.

OesterPoster
04-06-2007, 10:46 AM
I'm pretty sure a kid (Matt Witt) from Tipp City Bethel was ambidextrous and once pitched the first game of a DH with one hand, and then the second game with the other hand. He ended up playing basketball for Eastern Kentucky, and he was a pretty darn good point guard.

mound_patrol
04-06-2007, 10:51 AM
I'm pretty sure a kid (Matt Witt) from Tipp City Bethel was ambidextrous and once pitched the first game of a DH with one hand, and then the second game with the other hand. He ended up playing basketball for Eastern Kentucky, and he was a pretty darn good point guard.

I remember playing against him in Basketball my sophmore year in high school. I remember how good he was at finishing in the lane with both hands. Some one had told me he could pitch with both hands, but never heard much about him afterwards. It'd be cool if some one could start one day with one hand, and then the next four days pitch in relief with the other hand. Then a pitcher could win the MVP since they would be an everday player

Spitball
04-06-2007, 12:50 PM
There was a guy who pitched a few years ago for the Red Sox who could pitch ambidextrously. The Sox never let him do it in a game but there was a little feature about it on TV one night. Pretty interesting if you're a fireballing righty one at bat and a submarining lefty the next.

That was Greg Harris who also pitched for the Reds after being part of the George Foster return from the Mets.

He actually did get to pitch in a game using both hands against the Reds. I believe he pitched left handed to both Hal Morris and Eddie Taubensee while using his right arm against Reggie Sanders and Bret Boone.

Grounds_Crew
04-06-2007, 01:00 PM
It's incredible to read about the talent and ability that some people are born with...or uhh...that they develop. Whichever way you want to look at it, that's rarely heard of.

Spitball
04-06-2007, 02:21 PM
Jorge Rubio, who came to the Reds with Bill Kelso from the Angels for Sammy Ellis in the late sixties, could throw with either hand. Bert Campaneras, the former A's shortstop, could also throw with either hand. Oh, and I can also throw and write with either hand. I was a natural lefthander but my mother feared I might be at a disadvantage in life. She was always taking things from my left hand ands putting them in my right. That is the only odd thing I can ever remember my mom doing.

LoganBuck
04-06-2007, 04:10 PM
He was featured on Paul Harvey News today, and the claim was he could throw 91 with either arm. If that is the case, he could be really valuable.

shredda2000
04-06-2007, 04:20 PM
I think he would be valuable as well. If he gets injured throwing with one hand, he has a spare!!!

I always could throw, bat and write with both hands, but I am a natural right hander.

Of course I can write backwards and read words upside down...but that is another story...

Chip R
04-06-2007, 05:24 PM
Doc K has to be salivating over this guy. Two arms, no waiting. ;)

George Anderson
04-06-2007, 05:34 PM
An ambidexterous pitcher would basically have to throw with the same arm for an entire inning. I dont see him being able to call time and get a mitt from the dugout every time a different batter came up.

Which hey its still a good thing!!

shredda2000
04-06-2007, 05:38 PM
An ambidexterous pitcher would basically have to throw with the same arm for an entire inning. I dont see him being able to call time and get a mitt from the dugout every time a different batter came up.

Which hey its still a good thing!!

According to the story, he uses a custom glove that will work for either hand, thus he could change hands at will.

vaticanplum
04-06-2007, 08:48 PM
I'm somewhat ambidextrous. I write and brush my teeth with my right hand, draw and eat with my left. I can throw a baseball with neither.

I went to Baptist nursery school. The general concensus is that I was "changed".

Chip R
04-06-2007, 08:51 PM
In a home game in Omaha last Friday, he allowed only one hit in five and a third shutout innings to earn the victory against Northern Iowa.


He was lucky. ;)

Spitball
04-06-2007, 10:09 PM
That was Greg Harris who also pitched for the Reds after being part of the George Foster return from the Mets.

He actually did get to pitch in a game using both hands against the Reds. I believe he pitched left handed to both Hal Morris and Eddie Taubensee while using his right arm against Reggie Sanders and Bret Boone.

BTW, I'm pretty certain Harris was pitching for the Expos at the time. He did use a glove that was almost like a first baseman's mitt that he could wear on either hand.

Far East
04-07-2007, 01:58 AM
An ambidexterous pitcher would basically have to throw with the same arm for an entire inning. I dont see him being able to call time and get a mitt from the dugout every time a different batter came up.

Which hey its still a good thing!!

Reminds me of the old story -- not sure if it's true -- about the ambidextrous pitcher back in the day when players (at least outfielders) would simply lay their gloves on the field when they went from defense in to bat. This pitcher would simply switch from one glove lying near the mound to the other and from one pivot foot to the other on the rubber.

But then a certain switch-hitter came to the plate and began to switch from one batter's box to the other after the pitcher would switch gloves. This continued -- without any pitch yet being thrown -- for several switches until the pitcher finally decided to plant both spikes equally near the center of the rubber and held the ball in both hands.

Incidentally, I recall when the rules began to prohibit leaving gloves on the field when the half inning ended and it was time to bat. I was in Little League (or the league one age group above that) and one of the coaches had to tell me to go back (to LF) to retrieve my glove and bring it to the dugout because the new rule no longer allowed that.

By the way, the opposing left fielders invariably owned much newer and better gloves than I did, so when they left theirs on the field to go in to bat, I usually picked theirs off the grass and wore the shiny one instead of my hand-me-down anyway.

Razor Shines
04-07-2007, 02:22 AM
I can't believe I didn't read this thread before now. My youngest brother(14) can do that. He's never done it in a game, but I've seen him do it messing around and it makes me shake my head. When he was younger he couldn't decide which arm to throw with so he threw with both. He's an awfully good right handed pitcher but I've always told him he should just pitch left handed. My dad needs to get him one of those customized gloves.

Far East
04-07-2007, 10:36 AM
It's incredible to read about the talent and ability that some people are born with...or uhh...that they develop.

Had a childhood friend who had this mixed handedness. Can't recall exactly which tasks he did one way and which the other, such as using a fork, using a pencil, tying his shoes, or brushing his teeth -- but it was mixed.

On the sandlot, he pitched baseball right-handed and softball left-handed. In football, he punted with his one foot (I'm guessing left), but place kicked with the other (I'm guessing right).

I've read that handededness probably is inherited. If you recall your high school biology chapter on genetics, the teacher would symbolize the dominant gene with a capital letter like "B" for brown hair and the recessive gene with the lower case letter like "b" for red hair. So people inheriting the BB or Bb combination from their parents would have brown hair (having at least one dominant gene in the pair), and the redheads (or blondes) would have the bb combo.

So, those of us acquiring from our parents the RR pair or the Rr of genes would be right-handed (again, having at least one dominant gene in the pair); southpaws would have inherited the (double recessive) rr combination.

The pure lefties, the mixed-handeders like my friend, and the ambidextrous people also are believed to have inherited the double recessive rr (no dominant gene in the pair). At least that's the simplistic way of looking at it.

Redsland
04-07-2007, 11:03 AM
I'm somewhat ambidextrous. I write and brush my teeth with my right hand, draw and eat with my left.
I hope you don't keep any pencils in the silverware drawer.

:mooner:

vaticanplum
04-07-2007, 11:09 AM
Had a childhood friend who had this mixed handedness. Can't recall exactly which tasks he did one way and which the other, such as using a fork, using a pencil, tying his shoes, or brushing his teeth -- but it was mixed.

On the sandlot, he pitched baseball right-handed and softball left-handed. In football, he punted with his one foot (I'm guessing left), but place kicked with the other (I'm guessing right).

I've read that handededness probably is inherited. If you recall your high school biology chapter on genetics, the teacher would symbolize the dominant gene with a capital letter like "B" for brown hair and the recessive gene with the lower case letter like "b" for red hair. So people inheriting the BB or Bb combination from their parents would have brown hair (having at least one dominant gene in the pair), and the redheads (or blondes) would have the bb combo.

So, those of us acquiring from our parents the RR pair or the Rr of genes would be right-handed (again, having at least one dominant gene in the pair); southpaws would have inherited the (double recessive) rr combination.

The pure lefties, the mixed-handeders like my friend, and the ambidextrous people also are believed to have inherited the double recessive rr (no dominant gene in the pair). At least that's the simplistic way of looking at it.

I always thought that lef-handedness was actually a dominant trait. Dominant meaning not more common per se, but that if you have the "big R" (like you said) you have it; the big R, in this case, just happens to have fewer occurances in the population.

I could be remembering wrong. There's definitely at least one other thing that's INCREDIBLY common that is a recessive trait, like five-fingeredness or something. Blue-eyedness (which in science means everything but brown eyes) is a recessive trait, but has overrun brown eyes in some cultures because two brown-eyed people can have a blue-eyed kid (as they may possess the recessive gene), but two blue-eyed people cannot have a brown-eyed kid (since they have no dominant gene -- if they did, they'd be brown-eyed).

I'm stating all this very poorly, I think.