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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Confused Yet?

Anyone who plays (or even watches) baseball or softball knows about switch hitters. They're a great asset for a team. But have you ever heard of a switch pitcher*?

The video above isn't the same as the video on ESPN. The embedded
video is the original broadcast and runs about 8 minutes.

If you don't feel like sitting through the video, there's a minor league pitcher, Pat Venditte, who is literally a switch pitcher. He has a six-fingered glove so he can switch between arms at will. In Venditte's debut in minor league ball, a switch hitter, Ralph Henriquez, came to plate and tried to go to the "opposite side" (it's easier for a leftie to hit off of a right-handed pitcher, and vice versa). They did this odd little dance back and forth- Henriquez would check which hand Venditte had his glove on, and moved to appropriate side of the plate. Venditte then changed the glove to the other hand, and it started over again. And again. And again.

Finally, the managers and umpires got together for a conference at home plate, and, some seven minutes later, the decision was made that the batter can change once, and so can the pitcher, but the batter goes first. In the end, Venditte struck out Henriquez in four pitches. (According to this article, that was close to the right call.)

Let's learn more about Mr. Venditte, shall we? First of all, he was homeschooled. (Had to point that out, don't ya know?) His dad trained him to be ambidextrous starting in toddlerhood. By the time he began playing organized sports, he could kick and throw from either side with ease. He switch-pitched at Creighton University, and was drafted by the Yankees (twice). He made his first appearance as a (minor league) Yankee on June 19th, where the switch tango took place.

*According to ESPN, Venditte isn't the first switch-pitcher in the big leagues. In the modern era, Greg A. Harris switched once. In the 1880s and '90s, three pitchers were known to switch pitch.

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