Pat Venditte presently is a AA prospect in the Yankees organization. He’s a legitimate big league prospect with 91-mile per hour pop on his fastball from the right side, but what makes Venditte column-worthy is that he throws just as well from the left side.
There are a lot of switch hitters in Major League Baseball, but not switch pitchers. Mickey Mantle was probably the greatest switch hitter to ever play the game, but new guys with that ability come to the Bigs every season. It is a skill which can be learned, if not mastered, with enough effort and concentration. As a kid I practiced playing ping pong, hitting and shooting baskets with my left hand and achieved a modicum of proficiency, but it never felt “normal.” I was always a righty, even if I could make a left-handed layup.
I love Pat Venditte’s story because he dared to defy conventional wisdom and take his game where few have ever taken theirs. According to a New York Times article, Pat’s father saw him using both hands with equal dexterity when he was three years old. Pat’s dad was a baseball fanatic and taught him to throw and bat lefty and righty – and they both stuck. The beauty of the story is that neither father nor son accepted conventional baseball stupidity that you cannot be a switch pitcher.
Another baseball dictum is that you can’t be a left-handed catcher. The myth is that right-handed batters get in the way of the release of the throw to second base – an absurdity in a baseball world almost equally split between left- and right-handed batters. In a lifetime of watching Major League Baseball, I have not seen a left-handed throwing catcher.