Perhaps baseball’s greatest strength as a sport is its status as a haven for the weird. Whether it’s 300-pound pitchers, unnatural acts with food, or creative activities to pass the time during rain delays (that hopefully don’t include unnatural acts with food), individualistic and even idiosyncratic behavior is celebrated in baseball — a stark contrast to Roger Goodell’s quest to turn the NFL into Pleasantville.
And now, baseball has given us yet another unique gift — Pat Venditte, a switch-pitcher in the Oakland Athletics’ system, has been called up to the Major Leagues.
If you haven’t guessed by now, Venditte can pitch with either hand, something that only two pitchers have ever done in MLB history. (If you’re anything like me, your first reaction to that sentence was probably, “There’s MORE?!”) When he was in spring training with the A’s this year, he got the classic “Sports are wacky!” local news treatment:
In May, ESPN ran a feature on Venditte as well, which is worth your time if only for what it promises for the future (I won’t spoil it for you). He’s 29 years old, which means he’s probably had this kind of sideshow attention for a while now, especially considering that he’s in his eighth season of professional ball and has pitched for at least nine teams in that span. One can only imagine how many times he’s answered the same questions.
Here are a couple of answers to Pat’s switch-pitcher FAQ, so that if you meet him, you can move on to asking him stuff that bores him less:
- He’s been pitching this way since he was a very small child, and his dad encouraged him to never choose one hand
- He has a custom six-fingered glove so that he can switch glove hands quickly
- He pitches with about the same velocity (mid-80s) from either hand, and has a fastball, slider and changeup from both sides as well
- If he faces a switch-hitter, he has to declare his handedness first, a rule that was made for him after this ridiculous exchange:
Venditte is a reliever, and the A’s will be facing the Boston Red Sox the first time he’s in the bullpen, so it’ll be fascinating to see how they use him, and how the Sox react.