Meet Pat Venditte: The Ambidextrous Major League Pitcher
On Friday night at Fenway Park, a stadium that opened just one month after Oreo cookies debuted and has seen just about everything from a Jackie Robinson tryout to NHL Winter Classic hockey, saw something it has never seen before.
In a game between the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays, there were two outs in the fifth inning and former Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey was struggling on the mound. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons stepped out of the dugout and raised both hands in the air as he signaled the bullpen.
Enter Pat Venditte.
Venditte, who is naturally right-handed is an ambidextrous “switch pitcher” and can use either arm to pitch depending on which side of the plate the batter sets up on. He is currently the only one known in American professional baseball that has this unique skill.
“I throw harder right-handed,” Venditte stated. “But my track record shows that I probably have more success lefty on lefty so it really just depends on the day.”
An Omaha, Nebraska native, Venditte attended Creighton University and walked on to the baseball team there.
“It was really nice,” Venditte said in the Jays clubhouse. “I grew up going to those games all the time. I was a walk-on there but after a couple of years I was able to establish myself and help the school do some good things.”
At a younger age, Venditte explained how he punted footballs with both feet to help him with his coordination and footwork from both sides.
“It was something that I did when I was younger to fine tune my motor skills a little bit,” Venditte explained. “I don’t do much of that now as far as kicking or even throwing footballs with both arms, but when I was younger it definitely helped me and moved things along a little quicker.”
Venditte believes the development of players is crucial, especially if they want to take the next step in playing ball.
“Development is always happening,” Venditte said. “Whether you’re 12, 13 or 25 you can always continue to get better. Where you are at 15 or 16 isn’t necessarily where you’re going to end up when it’s all said and done.”
Venditte knows that best. He was drafted by the New York Yankees in the 2007 MLB draft, but decided to go back to Creighton for his senior year to develop more left arm velocity. He was then drafted again the following year, by the Yankees and signed. He was in the Yankees organization for eight seasons before signing with the Oakland A’s as a free agent following the 2014 season.
In 2015, Venditte was claimed off waivers by the Blue Jays. After being called up by the Jays earlier this season, Venditte made his season debut, ironically against the New York Yankees giving up no runs in one inning of work.
Throwing with both arms is not the only thing that Venditte uses. Venditte also has a unique glove that allows him to wear it on both hands so he does not have to switch gloves every batter.
In the minors, he even has a rule named after him called the “Pat Venditte Rule.” This rule came into effect after Venditte was pitching to a switch-hitter. After numerous switching back and forth between left and right for both parties, the teams appealed to the umpire. The umpires made the decision that the batter must select what side he is going to bat from before the at-bat.
When the rule became official, it was changed and forced the pitcher to make the decision first. The rule states that any pitcher must indicate to the umpires and teams which arm he is going to pitch with before the at-bat begins. He does so by touching the rubber with his throwing arm while wearing the glove on the opposite hand. He must uses that arm to pitch with until the batter is no longer at the plate and the appearance is complete.
Venditte has one of the most unique talents in all of professional sports that will not only confuse the heck out of anyone, but also help him prolong a baseball career.
“The manager’s call for me will always be different because I do pitch with both arms,” Venditte chuckled. “It was a funny thing from the other night but however he calls me I just want to help the team.”
So remember, whenever the manager comes out of the dugout and raises two arms it means one of two things, the team just won the World Series or Pat Venditte is coming into pitch.
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