Thursday, February 4, 2016

How Henry Knight learned to throw with both hands

Henry Knight - Ambidextrous Pitcher

Switch pitcher Henry Knight - Columbia City Reds, Seattle

Switch pitcher Henry Knight was a starter on varsity for four years in high school. He threw six different pitches, for strikes with both arms, and posted a league best
12:1 Strikeout-to-Walk ratio.

Coaches and umpires couldn't tell if he was a natural righty or lefty.

This post is about Henry's experience learning to throw with both arms since he was 9 years-old.

Reason for Switch Pitching: Just for fun

How he got started:

A natural righty, Henry Knight started throwing left-handed when he turned 9-years-old. As a Seattle Mariners fan, he was inspired by LHP Jamie Moyer, who kept batters off-balance by changing speed and location. He threw a slow "Bugs Bunny changeup" that made the best hitters look silly. Moyer was  fun to watch.

Henry thought that it would be fun to face batters as a left-handed pitcher – like Moyer, so he asked for a lefty baseball glove for his birthday and that's when it all started.

Note: Most ambidextrous throwers start when they are three to five years old, not by choice, but are  encouraged to throw with both arms by their dad. Some natural left-handers start throwing right handed so they can play shortstop or catcher. A few players start throwing with their non-dominant arm after an injury to their natural throwing arm. Billy Wagner, a natural righty, broke his arm twice when young, then started throwing left-handed.

Knight pitching lefty
Making practice fun

Initially, Henry practiced throwing balls left-handed into a large bucket at home – trying to hit the bucket in 8 out of 10 throws. He also made a game of knocking down water bottles lined up by a fence. The  target practice made a game of learning to throw lefty and helped Henry to develop accurate throws.

Switch hitting made ambidextrous throwing easier to learn

He was already a natural switch hitter, since 5-years-old, so throwing from both sides was not that difficult to learn. Henry started throwing left-handed two or three times a week in the off-season. This allowed him to rest his dominant right arm for several months, which is recommended by physical therapists.

Pitching Lessons

Once Henry could throw well with both hands, he thought that it was time to take lessons, so he signed up for a pitching clinic at Bellevue College.

Coach Mark Yoshino, a former lefty pitcher, taught Henry proper throwing mechanics, pitching grips, throwing drills, plus how to change speeds and location. Several college players worked with the pitchers on throwing drills, including how to throw long toss.

Henry participated in the clinic as a left-handed pitcher and the coaches said that he looked like a  natural lefty. The pitching clinic motivated Henry to work hard on throwing with both hands.

Proper Warmup is Very Important!

Pitchers learned dynamic warmups and arm exercises to get ready to throw. Coaches stressed the importance of proper warmup before throwing a baseball. Warmup to throw – not throw to warmup.

Knight pitching right-handed

Practice, Practice, Practice

After six months of regular practice, Henry became proficient at pitching with both arms (70% strikes). On flat-ground, he practiced throwing his four-seam fastball, 2-seamer, and change-up with the same arm speed.

He also threw long-toss twice a week – using all three grips.

Advanced Pitching Lessons

In the offseason, Henry was ready to learn how to throw a breaking ball. His dad wanted him to learn a safe way to throw a curveball, so he would not strain his arm like other kids in the league. After researching options, he decided to take a class from Pete Wilkinson - a local pitching expert. Pete taught Henry how to safely throw a curveball and locate a changeup.

More importantly, Henry learned how to make adjustments on the mound, so that he could be his own pitching coach.

Throwing a Breaking Ball

Although Henry learned to throw a curveball when he was 13, he didn't start using the curve in games until his junior year in high school. A college coach encouraged Henry to work on developing his fastball & changeup from both sides, and wait until high school to throw the curveball.  Tyler Davis, an All-American college pitcher, said it would be better to focus on throwing hard, and work on developing a changeup using the same arm speed.

Throwing Hard Daily

In the offseason, Henry focused on throwing hard every day and using the same arm speed with different pitching grips. Playing "burn out" was one of his favorite activities.

Controlling the Glove Side

One important lesson was how to control the glove-side in order to make accurate throws. Many young players yank the glove sideways or way behind their back, causing the shoulder to rotate early which can lead to inconsistent throws or wild pitches. By controlling the glove arm, a pitcher can really improve their pitch location.

Be Your Own Pitching Coach  

   Throw strikes!  Just play catch!  Relax! 

In Little League, I often hear parents and fans yelling instructions to the struggling pitcher. This sideline coaching is distracting and doesn't help the pitcher to throw strikes. 

A better strategy is to learn to be your own pitching coach. Learning how to make simple adjustments on the mound helps a pitcher to consistently throw strikes. 

By using self coaching techniques, Henry was able to throw 75% strikes and consistently locate pitches in the strike zone.

Throwing BP

During the regular season, Henry helps to throw batting practice (BP) from both sides. This experience gives him confidence facing some good right- and left-handed hitters.

Pitching in Games

First Start as a Switch Pitcher

Henry got his first start as a lefty pitcher, in Pony League, when he was 10-years-old and retired the first three batters. The next inning, he switched gloves to throw right-handed and did not give up any runs. Players where yelling "Watch the new pitcher!" when Henry was warming up in the second inning. 

Gloves and Pitching Strategy

Six-finger ambidextrous glove
Until recently, Henry used two separate gloves for pitching left- and right-handed. The first inning of a game he would use his left hand to pitch, then the following inning he would switch to throw right-handed. The league only allowed 10 year-old players to throw up to two innings per game (no pitch count rule).

If he struggled throwing left-handed, then his coach would call time and bring the other glove to the mound so that Henry could pitch right-handed. Being his own reliever was a great way to get out of a jam and build confidence.

During his second season of pitching left-handed, he worked on hitting the corners and started striking out more batters. The low inside change-up was very effective against right-handed batters. His approach is to locate the ball low in the strikezone, change speeds, and use movement to keep hitters off-balance.

Pitching in High School

Henry Knight made the varsity baseball team as a freshman and pitches against the best players in the state. As a sophomore he only gave up one earned run throwing left-handed and posted 22 strikeouts in 22 innings pitched.

As a relief pitcher on varsity, he tallied a 2-0 record.

In the off-season, Henry worked out regularly with high-velocity pitchers at Driveline Baseball in Puyallup. Kyle Boddy worked with Henry to develop a custom throwing and arm care routine for an ambidextrous pitcher. The program included a long warmup routine, workouts with weighted implements, long toss,  focused bullpens, video analysis and post throwing arm care. Henry also threw hard daily, on flat ground, alternating days throwing right- and left-handed. This throwing program kept him in shape and healthy throughout the season.

Over four years on varsity, Henry posted a 12:1 Strikeout-to-Walk Ratio
Now that's having command of his pitches.

Pitching Highlight

In the summer league, he threw 11 innings in a game as a switch pitcher, allowing only one earned run while throwing 94 strikes.

Knight threw nine scoreless innings with 87% first pitch strikes.


Switch Pitcher
In baseball, a switch-pitcher is an ambidextrous pitcher who is able to pitch with both the right and left hand from the pitcher's mound. (Wikipedia)

Monday, February 1, 2016

Top High School Switch Pitchers 2016

Henry Knight switch pitcher
Henry Knight throws 6 pitches for strikes from both sides

Switch Pitchers - Class of 2016

Over the past decade, there have been a few players who pitched with both arms in high school baseball games. Switch pitchers are extremely rare, since it takes coordination, dedication and a lot of practice. 

Most of these ambidextrous pitchers were inspired by major league switch pitcher Pat Venditte of the Oakland Athletics.

Check out the list of ambidextrous high school baseball players from the class of 2016. Two switch pitchers have already signed to play for Division 1 baseball teams.

Nick BohannanFort Zumwalt North HS, O'Fallon, Missouri
Bohannan was featured on TV in 2011 as a 13-year-old Ambidextrous Pitcher. He plays basketball and baseball in high school. For switch pitching, he uses a custom Mizuno ambidextrous glove. Check out Nick Bohannan's profile.

Carter Kieboom, Walton HS, Marietta, Georgia
Kieboom is a tall thin infielder who has the ability to pitch with both arms and bats right-handed. He throws 86 mph RHP, and 80 mph LHP. His older brothers played college baseball, and one was drafted as a catcher by the Nationals. 

College commitment: Clemson University - Tigers

Brock Mammoser, Newton Community HS, Newton, Illinois
A rare 4-sport athlete in high school, Mammoser participates in football, basketball, track and baseball for the Newton Eagles. He's a quarterback, point guard, pole vaulter and switch pitcher!

JT McDonnellSan Marino HS, California

McDonnell was featured in a TV report as a right-hander who started throwing left-handed when he was 9 years old. JT throws a good curve ball from both sides. Uses a custom 6-finger Mizuno glove for switch pitching.

Joe Santoro, Carmel Catholic HS 2016, Illinois
Joe Santoro is a rare talent, as he is a smooth pitcher who can throw with either arm, similar to Ryan Perez, who pitched at Westminster Christian HS. Santoro bats left-handed and plays outfield left-handed. FB: 86-87 (source: Prep Baseball Report
College commitment: Army  

Army West Point Black Knights
The Army West Point Black Knights, commonly known as Army, is the name of the athletics teams of the United States Military Academy.


How rare are ambidextrous pitchers?

Chances of a switch pitcher playing in college >>


Friday, January 15, 2016

Switch Pitcher Facts for Dummies

Information about ambidextrous pitchers
- learn about switch pitchers from Little League to the MLB

Did you know?

   The majority of ambidextrous throwers are naturally right-handed.

   Pat Venditte is not an amphibious pitcher.

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Who's Who of Ambidextrous Pitchers

- Sidearm ambidextrous pitcher in the MLB for the Oakland Athletics
- spent seven years in the minors with the NY Yankees 
- pitched for Creighton University Bluejays
- started throwing with both arms when he was 3-years-old
- first ambidextrous pitcher to throw 90+ mph with both arms
- drafted by the Cleveland Indians in 2015
- dominant switch pitcher for Judson University
- Montreal Expos RHP, threw one inning with both arms in an MLB game against the Cincinnati Reds in 1995
- Harris donated his custom Mizuno six-fingered glove to the Baseball Hall of Fame

Tony Mullane - The Count
- Mullane was baseball's first ambidextrous pitcher and a talented ballplayer who played every position in the field except catcher
- The Count won 30 games in five consecutive seasons

- relief switch pitcher for the Vanderbilt Commodores
- natural lefty who learned how to throw right-handed
- rodeo background caused him to use his right hand
- switch pitcher for Creighton University Bluejays (redshirt in 2015)
- played for the Neptune Beach Pearl team in college summer ball

High School
- 12:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio (4 years on varsity)
- switch pitched in 11 inning game, using only 11 pitches/inning
- throws 6 pitches for strikes with each arm
- switch hitter with a .500 BA 

Little League

Angel MaciasMonterrey, Mexico
Macias pitched a perfect game in the 1957 Little League World Series.