Baseball thrives on tradition. We dubbed it “America’s Game”. Reflecting unwavering values of the sport that have persevered throughout years of change. At the core, is the duel between a pitcher and a batter. A man throws a baseball while another holds a bat and tries to hit the ball. Simple enough. Since right-handed and left-handed pitchers tend to have an advantage against righty and lefty batters, respectively, the art of switch-hitting developed. These batters are capable of hitting from either side of the plate to gain an advantage on the pitcher no matter what hand he is most dexterous. But what happens when a pitcher can pitch with either hand?
Chaos took over the last at-bat of a minor league game featuring Ralph Henriquez, a switch-hitter, and Pat Venditte, a switch-pitcher. From all this nonsense came the “Venditte Rule”, ruling that a pitcher must choose with which hand he will throw before each pitch to give the batter the advantage of choosing which side to hit. This quirk has rarely ever been an issue, with the only switch-pitcher in recent memory playing 20 years ago for the Montreal Expos. Greg A. Harris switched hands in the final inning of his second-to-last MLB appearance on September 28, 1995. No one has ever based a career on the dual-threat style like Venditte.
Everything started when his father, Pat Venditte Sr. decided to pursue a dream for his then three-year-old son to pitch with both hands. With the help of a local university and his brother-in-law/electrician, he built a 70-foot batting cage equipped with lights to use with Pat Jr. One of the duo’s favorite things to do was practice late into the night developing both arms while batting and pitching.
Now, little Pat is all grown up and began pitching under brighter lights in an Oakland A’s jersey last Sunday. After a long seven-year journey through the minors, he is developing out of the bullpen and contributing early. Sporting a six-fingered glove, he’s notched 2.1 scoreless innings with a strikeout and only one hit allowed.
I am not sure how long players will take to figure out the ambidextrous pitcher, but one thing’s for sure: Pat Venditte has revolutionized the art of pitching, let alone baseball as a whole. What’s the next way an athlete will transform his/her sport? Is Venditte the first of many pitchers to regularly switch-pitch? Leave your take in the comments down below. Thanks for reading!
*Image Credit to Charles Krupa – Associated Press