April 08, 2007
Throws right and left

Here's something you don't see every day: a switch-throwing pitcher.

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.

There have been, as the article notes, ambidextrous pitchers in professional baseball, but they've all been gimmicks and trivia questions. This guy sounds like he could actually make it as a two-handed pro, though the impression is still one of oddity more than anything else.

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.

If I had to make a guess, I'd say his future is more likely to lie as a lefty specialist, for the simple reason that lefty throwers are more valuable than righties, but you never know. I for one will certainly root for him to make it as a both-ways guy. Thanks to Dan Wallach for the link.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 08, 2007 to Baseball