Pat Venditte made history Friday night with the Oakland A’s.
The Sounds’ ambidextrous pitcher was promoted from Triple-A on Friday and made his debut against the Red Sox, making him just the second switch-pitcher in the history of major league baseball. He allowed one hit with one strikeout in two innings, but the Red Sox won 4-2.
The move is a tad ironic as just earlier this week, Venditte discussed the special talent he shares with Vanderbilt’s Aubrey McCarty and Central Magnet High’s James Touchton.
The trio met for the first time on Tuesday. They sat in the third-base dugout at First Tennessee Park and talked about switch-pitching.
Venditte is the only switch-pitcher in professional baseball; McCarty and Touchton are two of a small group of switch-pitchers in college and high school baseball.
Middle Tennessee was the only region in the country where you can find three switch-pitchers competing on three different levels. With Venditte’s promotion on Friday, this conversation was perfectly timed:
How did you get started as a switch pitcher?
Touchton: I started because I did some things right-handed and I did some things left-handed. I wanted to try to throw with both. In third grade, I started throwing left-handed. I was born right-handed, but I write with my left hand.
Venditte: I am a natural right-hander. Everything I do right-handed. Throwing a baseball was something my dad taught me how to do from the left side when I was 3. When I was young, I played musical instruments. Some studies indicate that playing instruments helps with developing the brain. I don’t know if that helps me be ambidextrous or not.
McCarty: I started when I was 11 years old. My dad was into rodeo calf roping. To do that, the advantage is to do it right-handed. It would have been an oddity to do that left-handed. He taught me how to do that right-handed. Then he taught me how to throw a baseball right-handed. I do everything else left-handed.
What happens if one arm is injured? Do you continue to throw with the other arm?
Venditte: It happened the first time I got to Triple-A in 2012. It happened when I get to spring training, and I tried to pitch through it; it didn’t work out. Had to have surgery. It was really never (an) option to pitch one-handed. For me to pitch at this level, I need to have the match-up advantages.
What type of glove do you use?
Venditte: I use (a) Mizuno six-finger glove with two thumbs. When I was younger, my dad would buy me one every couple of years. Since pro ball started, I get two each year from Mizuno. My glove is a knockoff of the one Greg Harris used.
Touchton: I have a Mizuno, too.
McCarty: I got one just like that.
Greg Harris is the only pitcher ever to throw with both arms in a major league game. He did it in one game on Sept. 28, 1995. Pitching for the Montreal Expos, he threw one inning against the Cincinnati Reds. Had you heard of Harris before starting throwing with both arms?
Venditte: Yes, I was 9 and I saw him on (ESPN) SportsCenter. Now that I am a pro, we keep in contact and talk from time to time.
McCarty: No, when I first started playing I saw an article about Pat (Venditte) in Sports Illustrated. That’s where I first saw something about another switch-pitcher.
Touchton: I think I started looking into it when Pat (Venditte) was at Creighton or with the Yankees (farm team).
When Pat made his professional debut as a member of the Staten Island Yankees on June 19, 2008, the umpires were confused about the protocol of a switch pitcher. When switch-hitter Ralph Henriquez came tot the plate, there was confusion as to whether the pitcher or the batter should declare first which side he would hit or pitch from. Eventually, Henriquez struck out. The next day, the Professional Baseball Umpire Corp. issued an official rule for dealing with ambidextrous pitchers.
Venditte: Before that game, there was no rule in place. Because of that night, it set everything in motion. The next day, before the game started, there was a rule in place.
So when you enter a game now, how does the batter and umpire know which arm you are going to use?
McCarty: For every batter, you have to declare which way you are going to throw.
Venditte: The same thing. (In the pros), we are fortunate that we have a lot more information on the hitters.
Although you pitch with both arms, is one stronger than the other? Are you more comfortable throwing with one arm over the other?
McCarty: I have been throwing right-handed longer, so I feel stronger and more comfortable that side. But left-handed is my natural side, so everything goes smoother.
Venditte: I feel the same throwing both ways. I would say, statistically, I am a little more effective throwing left-handed against left-handed batters.
Touchton: I am in the same boat as Aubrey. I am primarily a lot better right-handed and it feels better throwing from the left side; I’m just not as good (at) it.
When you are warming up to come into a game, does it take you twice as long to get ready as a pitcher who only throws with one arm?
Venditte: I’ve trained my body. I get my right arm ready first. It takes a tad bit longer. Then a few pitches on my left side.
McCarty: I don’t get as many throws with two arms as one guy would with one arm.
Are there any suggestions for youth pitchers who may want to start throwing with both arms?
McCarty: Keep working at it. You can do it if you work at it.
Venditte: The one common theme among us: It takes a lot of perseverance and it takes time.
Touchton: You need to work hard and get working at it. Make sure you are keeping it going both sides.
Reach Dave Ammenheuser at 615-259-8352 and on Twitter @NashSportsEd.
KNOW THE SWITCH PITCHERS
• Pat Venditte , Nashville Sounds/Oakland A’s. Born June 30, 1985. He’s the only ambidextrous pitcher in professional baseball. A natural right-hander, his father taught him how to throw as a lefty when he was a child. In eight minor league seasons, he has appeared in 259 games with an ERA of 2.37. He had a 1-0 record with a 1.36 ERA in 17 games for the Sounds this season.
• Aubrey McCarty , Vanderbilt University. Born Jan. 24, 1995. He’s a natural left-handed pitcher, but started throwing with his right arm when he was 11. He pitched in five games for Vanderbilt this season, using both arms. He allowed just two hits and two walks in six innings, striking out six.
• James Touchton , Central Magnet High School. Born May 12, 1999. He’s a natural right-handed pitcher, who began throwing with his left arm when he was in the third grade. He recently completed his sophomore season. He made his debut throwing as a left-hander, when he tossed one shutout inning in a 24-0 win over York Institute.
THE PAT VENDITTE RULE
Major League Baseball pitching rule 8.0 (f):
A pitcher must indicate visually to the umpire-in-chief, the batter and any runners the hand with which he intends to pitch, which may be done by wearing his glove on the other hand while touching the pitcher’s plate. The pitcher is not permitted to pitch with the other hand until the batter is retired, the batter becomes a runner, the inning ends, the batter is substituted for by a pinch-hitter or the pitcher incurs an injury. In the event a pitcher switches pitching hands during an at-bat because he has suffered an injury, the pitcher may not, for the remainder of the game, pitch with the hand from which he has switched. The pitcher shall not be given the opportunity to throw any preparatory pitches after switching pitching hands. Any change of pitching hands must be indicated clearly to the umpire-in-chief.