Pat Venditte just wants to play ball. He doesn’t feel superior, he doesn’t feel like his gift is one in a million. But it is unique in NCAA Division I history.
You always hear the question: “Can a pitcher switch hands while facing the same batter?”
But you never hear, as part of the answer, the tale of so-and-so a righty who, back in 1994, decided to throw one inning left-handed.
Well here it is, courtesy of the New York Times:
Greg Harris, primarily a right-handed reliever for many clubs from 1981 through 1995, pitched one inning using both arms for the Montreal Expos in his final season. That outing was considered more stunt than strategy.
But as far as the New York Times is concerned, he was the only Major Leaguer. And though the Times says there have been ambidextrous pitchers at the college level, Venditte is the only one in Division I play.
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.
Because neither arm was particularly tired afterward, Venditte also pitched in both games of Creighton’s doubleheader against Northern Iowa two days later, retiring the only batter he faced (left-handed) in the first game and then tossing a shutout inning (pitching both ways) in the nightcap. He also pitched two innings, alternating arms, in Tuesday’s game against archrival Nebraska. Venditte (pronounced ven-DEH-tee) has a fine 3.29 earned run average in 18 appearances this season.
Venditte has been scouted by some Major League clubs, with one scout saying “He could be an economical two-for-one,” but more than a threat to a line up made up with alternating lefties and righties, he poses a threat to pitching coaches everywhere. What with more “specialized” pitchers becoming a reality, if Venditte is the first of a deluge of ambidextrous hurlers, pitching coaches will have to work much less.
“Usually you have to follow the hitter: a left-hander’s coming up, so you have to decide whether to bring a lefty in,” Creighton’s pitching coach, Rob Smith, said. “In this scenario, you have the control. It helps the depth of the bullpen a lot — you don’t have to burn a guy to get the matchup you want.”
Translation: I don’t have to decide; he can do that for me. I don’t have to rely on our scouting, just his customized glove.
Watch Venditte in action. [nyt]