Switch Pitching

Many great players have been switch hitters. Pete Rose, Mickey Mantle, and Mike Schmidt are just a few who could hit effectively from both sides of the plate. Switch hitting is an advantage because it’s easier for a right-handed hitter to bat against a left-handed pitcher and vice versa – it’s easier to hit a breaking ball that breaks toward you rather than away from you. Often a relief pitcher will be chosen primarily based on which side of the plate the next batter bats from. So where are the switch pitchers?

There have been very few ambidexterous pitchers in baseball. Wikipedia lists only a few, and most played in the 1800s. The only modern era switch pitcher was natural righty Greg Harris, who in 1995 with the Montreal Expos faced just two batters left-handed in the next-to-last game of his career. But now there is a switch pitcher in the Yankees minor league organization named Pat Venditte who regularly pitches with both arms. His father trained him to throw with both hands since the age of three.

Pat Venditte – Switch Pitcher

Pat Venditte – YouTube

YouTube: Switch-pitcher Venditte encounters switch hitter; chaos ensues

When the Yankees signed Venditte, the rulebook had to be changed to allow for switch pitching. The Venditte rule was added. It states that the pitcher must clearly indicate which arm he’ll throw with as he approaches the mound (generally based on which hand he wears his glove). The batter then chooses which side he will bat from. Each may change once during an at-bat and must clearly declare the change to the umpire. No additional warm-up pitches are afforded.

Fielding is another issue because baseball gloves are designed to be either left-handed or right-handed. Switch pitchers like Pat Venditte cannot bring multiple gloves onto the field and switch when changing throwing hands. Nor can they run to the dugout between batters to switch gloves. Fortunately, Louisville Slugger manufactures a custom glove (shown) with two symmetric thumbs that can be used on either hand. There’s some question about whether this glove conforms to the MLB equipment regulations, but it’s been accepted in the NCAA and would be expected to be legal in the majors as well.

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