Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Switch hitters can learn switch pitching

Hitting a baseball is difficult to do. Switch hitting is even tougher to do well, but can be learned with regular practice. When I was researching switch pitchers, I noticed that several started out switch hitting at a young age. Switch hitters have the potential to learn switch pitching by using their leg stride and hip rotation.

Here are examples of switch hitters who learned how to switch pitch:

Matt Brunnig - Harvard

Matt Brunnig who pitched for Harvard University, started out as a switch hitter and a learned to throw with both arms when he was only six-years-old. His dad was a chiropractor and wanted his son Matt to have muscle balance on both sides. Read more about Matt Brunnig

Henry Knight - Seattle

Henry started switch hitting in games when he was only five-years-old. He could hit well from either side of the plate since he practiced swinging right- and left-handed. Playing in a coach pitch division - he could rely on his dad to throw "meatballs" over the plate where it was easy to hit. He would alternate sides to hit it were they ain't - into the gaps or right past kids who were playing in the dirt. As a result he was on base a lot and averaged two runs per game.

During batting practice at the local field, he would practice shagging balls from the outfield using either arm. At first he was just messing around, but kept throwing balls online to the bucket at the mound. This became a fun drill during batting practice and other players joined in.

When he was eight-years-old he asked his dad for a left-handed glove. Eventually, his dad found a matching Rawlings glove to give Henry on his 9th birthday. His dad figured that throwing left-handed could give his son's right arm time to rest - especially in the off-season.

Henry started practicing pitching with each arm in the backyard using a big bucket, tipped on the side, as a target. He learned from his coach that good throwers use their lower body to get momentum and that's what he did when practicing. Throwing with either arm was easy for Henry to do since he already had the experience of switch hitting - using his legs and rotating the hips. As Cy Young award winner Tim Lincecum would say about pitching - "the arm just comes along for the ride."


A switch hitter already has the balance and lower body movement that gives them the potential to throw with either arm. There is no guarantee that they can switch pitch, but it's worth a try.

Teaching players to switch hit 

I would suggest that helping a kid learn to switch hit first has more value than starting them out throwing with both arms. After all, not all kids will want to pitch, but most kids would love to hit a baseball from either side of the plate. You might also find that they are better at hitting left-handed than right-handed.

My experience in youth baseball is that a good left-handed hitter can give a team an advantage - typically the weakest player is put in right field where the lefties like to hit. Teaching a child to switch hit takes about 50% more practice than hitting only from one side. Some hitters may need twice as much practice. Doing a lot of tee work really helps. Focus on hitting from one side each session.

Natural left-handers can learn to throw right-handed and it will allow them to play SS, 2B, 3B or catcher when they get older. Two natural lefties on my team learned to throw right-handed when they were young and they developed into solid infielders and starting pitchers. They both batted right-handed in games, although they could also hit left-handed in practice.


MLB Official Rules: 8.00 The Pitcher

Legal pitching delivery. There are two legal pitching positions, the Windup Position and the Set Position, and either position may be used at any time. Read more

8.01 (f), regarding ambidextrous pitchers

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.

MLB Official Rules: 8.00 The Pitcher


What switch pitcher Pat Venditte thinks about the rule.

BBD:  What are your thoughts on the Pat Venditte rule? Is it fair?
PV: I wish it was the other way around where the switch hitters didn’t get the advantage. If the switch hitters had to decide which side they would hit from before the at bat instead of vice versa, that would have been really helpful. It would be a huge advantage to be able to face those switch hitters as right handers, but it is what it is and I’ve been working through it. The rule has been in place for a long time now though and I will continue to do my best to work around it.

Yankees' ambidextrous pitcher Pat Venditte Debuts

March 30, 2010
Yankees' ambidextrous pitcher Pat Venditte pulls switcheroo
Pat Venditte showed off his ambidextrous talents for the New York Yankees on Tuesday, giving up one run in 1-1/3 innings during a 9-6 split-squad loss to the Atlanta Braves.
KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Pat Venditte can see why he's such a curiosity. It's not every day that a pitcher throws with both arms.
Venditte showed off his ambidextrous talents for the New York Yankees on Tuesday, giving up one run in 1-1/3 innings during a 9-6 split-squad loss to the Atlanta Braves. (source: The Seattle Times)
Read article

Switch-pitcher Pat Venditte delivers thrill for New York Yankees
LAKE BUENA VISTAFla. - After CC Sabathia left Tuesday's game against the Braves, he sat on the bench to watch the young lefthander who had replaced him in the fifth inning. But when Pat Venditte threw his first pitch to Yunel Escobar, he did so with his right hand.
"It freaked me out a little bit," Sabathia said. "I didn't know what was going on. I saw they brought a lefty in, then the batter go up there and he was throwing righthanded. I thought maybe that guy got hurt and they brought another one out."
As Sabathia quickly found out, the pitcher who had relieved him, Venditte, is a 24-year old ambidextrous hurler who throws with both hands during games. (source: NY Daily News)
Read more

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Pat Venditte Videos

Videos of switch pitcher Pat Venditte including interviews and game highlights.

Published on Sep 16, 2013 
Watch this video to get a first-hand look at Venditte's six-fingered glove with two thumb holes. As the only active ambidextrous pitcher in professional baseball, Pat Venditte has spent the last six seasons in the Yankees 

E:60 Pat Venditte - ESPN Video
Pat Venditte has been pitching with his left and right hand since the age of 3. At the time of the interview, Venditte was a minor leaguer for the Charleston RiverDogs, and he is a New York Yankees prospect.

Switch Hitter VS Switch Pitcher Pat Venditte
June 19, 2008 Staten Island Yankees @ Brooklyn Cyclones botton 9th - switch pitching reliever Pat Venditte faces a switch-hitter. The umpires apparently did not understand the rules before the game started. This matchup was the origin of the "Pat Venditte Rule." Ralph Henriquez, the switch hitter, struck out on a big sweeping curve ball by Venditte.

Pat Venditte Northwoods League Allstar Game 2007

Pat Venditte Creighton University Switch-Pitcher
Creighton University's Pat Venditte pitches with BOTH arms

Creighton University Junior Pat Venditte - CSTV
Creighton's Pat Venditte is listed as a right handed pitcher...and a left handed pitcher.


Yankees' Pat Venditte to Make Major League Debut

According to The Associated Press, Pat Venditte is Major League Baseball’s only ambidextrous pitcher, and he will play in his first major league spring training game on Tuesday, March 30th, in a split-squad game against the Atlanta Braves.

The 24-year-old Venditte is equipped with a custom six-finger glove for throwing with either arm. In 2008, Venditte was a 20th-round draft pick. Last season, in the minor leagues, he went a combined 4-2 with a 1.87 ERA and 22 saves.

Venditte became famous after his first minor league game when he faced off with switch-hitter Ralph Henriquez of the Brooklyn Cyclones. Venditte and Henriquez played a game of cat and mouse, with Henriquez switching sides of the plate every time Venditte switched his specially designed glove from his left hand to the right, as  he was preparing to pitch from the same side the hitter chose. The umpires stepped in, restoring order by requiring the pitcher to decide the hand he will use first, then the hitter can choose his side. Venditte struck Henriquez out on four pitches.

One month later, the Professional Baseball Umpire Corporation released a series of rules pertaining to Venditte's situation, allowing both batters and pitchers to switch sides once per at-bat. The new rules regarding a switch-hitter and switch pitcher are known as "The Venditte Rule."

Venditte will be in the bullpen for the Yanks with lefty CC Sabathia getting the start.

Switch-pitching Venditte debuts with NY -
In relief of Sabathia, 24-year-old gets results from both sides

For the 24-year-old Venditte, coming out of the bullpen to relieve CC Sabathia against the Braves at Champion Stadium represented a huge opportunity to showcase his stuff -- with both arms -- while hopefully proving that this can be more than just a popular Minor League gimmick.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Umpires Rule!

Please respect the umpires. After all they are human.

Here are some ideas to help the umpires do a great job:

Coaches meeting with the Umpire
Let the umpire know before the game that you have a switch pitcher who is planning to use both arms during the game. Check to make sure the umpires know the rules regarding switch pitching. 
Going Over Ground Rules with the Umpire - video

Game Balls
Provide the plate umpire with new games balls before the start of the game. Have some kids retrieving foul balls. Trade candy for returned game balls - it works.

Keeping Score
Have your official score keeper communicate with the umpire before and during the game as needed to keep things straight. It's nice to have two reliable score keepers available in the stands, so one can take a break if needed.

Tracking the pitch count 
Note that the pitch count is still the same for every player - switch pitchers don't get to throw twice as many pitches as a regular pitcher. 

Warmup pitches
The switch pitcher needs to make sure to warmup throwing with both arms before they take the moundPitchers only get 8 warm up throws at the start of the rotation, so do 4-left and 4-right using an ambidextrous glove. If the pitcher is using a standard glove, then warmup as usual. You do not get extra warmup throws on the mound as a switch pitcher. 

Rule 8.03 - Pitcher Warm-Up
When a pitcher takes his position at the beginning of each inning, or when he relieves another pitcher, he shall be permitted to pitch not to exceed eight preparatory pitches to his catcher during which play shall be suspended. A league by its own action may limit the number of preparatory pitches to less than eight preparatory pitches. Such preparatory pitches shall not consume more than one minute of time. If a sudden emergency causes a pitcher to be summoned into the game without any opportunity to warm up, the Umpire-in-Chief shall allow him as many pitches as the umpire deems necessary.

Where is the catcher?
Umpires get irritated when the pitcher has to wait for a catcher to suit up. Have another player with a mask and mitt step in to warmup the pitcher. Some leagues allow coaches to catch for the pitcher during warmup. A player should help the catcher suit up to catch.

Water Boy!
Make sure to provide the umpires with cold water. It gets hot back there in all that gear.

Know the Strike Zone
The Strike Zone: A historical timeline  (
Rule 2.00 - The Strike Zone
The Strike Zone is defined as that area over homeplate the upper limit of which is a horizontal line at the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants, and the lower level is a line at the hollow beneath the kneecap. The Strike Zone shall be determined from the batter's stance as the batter is prepared to swing at a pitched ball.
See MLB Rules of Interest

Sport Science - Episode 5 - Out of Control - Bad Calls 
Jim Evans gives an inside look at the difficulties of being an major league umpire. The video gives an illustrated view of how the strike zone has changed over the years. 

Switch Hitter vs. Switch Pitcher
A switch pitcher facing a switch hitter is rare - but it could be fun to watch. Don't waste time switching back and forth. Coaches can ask the umpire for clarification of the rules (read below).

Ask the umpire for "Time" before approaching the mound
If the ambidextrous pitcher needs to change gloves, then the coach needs to ask the umpire for "time" before bringing the glove to the mound. Don't just run out to the mound without getting permission from the umpire. The pitcher does not get warmup throws when they switch arms to throw.

Umpires are baseball fans
Most umpires really enjoy calling games with a switch pitcher on the mound. It's something they can share with their buddies.
One umpire said "that was soooo cool" after he called a game where my son pitched left- and right-handed. They really like when the pitcher is throwing strikes from both sides since it makes their job easy.

Don't question the umpire. Ask for clarification if needed.
Don't argue balls and strikes. Coaches can ask if the pitch was high, low, outside - umpires have no problem with that.
Don't yell at the umpire. If you do, then you are going to make yourself look like a jerk. Give the umpire a break.

Be Nice to Blue
Remember to thank the umpire after the game.

Play by the Rules

    Rule 9.02
  1. Any umpire's decision which involves judgment, such as, but not limited to, whether a batted ball is fair or foul, whether a pitch is a strike or a ball, or whether a runner is safe or out, is final. No player, manager, coach or substitute shall object to any such judgment decisions.Players leaving their position in the field or on base, or managers or coaches leaving the bench or coaches box, to argue on BALLS AND STRIKES will not be permitted. They should be warned if they start for the plate to protest the call. If they continue, they will be ejected from the game.

The Pat Venditte Rule
The Professional Baseball Umpire Corporation (PBUC) released its official rules for dealing with ambidextrous pitchers. These guidelines were reached after PBUC staff consulted with a variety of sources, including the Major League Baseball Rules Committee.

It reads:
  • The pitcher must visually indicate to the umpire, batter and runner(s) which way he will begin pitching to the batter. Engaging the rubber with the glove on a particular hand is considered a definitive commitment to which arm he will throw with. The batter will then choose which side of the plate he will bat from.
  • The pitcher must throw one pitch to the batter before any “switch” by either player is allowed.
  • After one pitch is thrown, the pitcher and batter may each change positions one time per at-bat. For example, if the pitcher changes from right-handed to left-handed and the batter then changes batter’s boxes, each player must remain that way for the duration of that at-bat (unless the offensive team substitutes a pinch hitter, and then each player may again “switch” one time).
  • Any switch (by either the pitcher or the batter) must be clearly indicated to the umpire. There will be no warm-up pitches during the change of arms.
  • If an injury occurs the pitcher may change arms but not use that arm again during the remainder of the game.

How to Be a Baseball Umpire : Umpire Etiquette video
Be fair, stay cool, stay grounded, and ignore the fans.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Matt Brunnig, Harvard - "Freak"

Matt Brunnig

Hometown: Deland, Florida
High School: Home schooled

College: Harvard University (Class of 2006)
Played for coach Joe Walsh

Positions: RHP / LHP
Bats: Switch hitter
Throws: Both, ambidextrous

Dominant Hand: Matt is a natural right-hander who learned to throw with both arms when he was 6-years-old.

Brunnig was called "Freak" by his Harvard teammates.

His dad was a chiropractor who wanted his son to avoid back problems. The oldest of six children, he was home-schooled by his mother, Sarah, from kindergarten through high school.

How he got started:

A natural right-hander, Brunnig honed his lefty skills at age 6 with help from his father, John, who's a chiropractor. "He didn't want me to overly develop my body muscles on one side,"
Brunnig said.

Worried about his son’s back and the strain that comes with exerting such force with just one arm, John Brunnig insisted that young Matt learn to throw both ways, guaranteeing balance in the development of the muscles on both his right and left sides.

John said he worked on his son's switch-pitching for two reasons: to keep Matt's body in as perfect balance as possible; and because he would be coveted by major-league teams.

Throwing the Heat

At Harvard, he threw 87-90 miles per hour from the right side and about 85 from the left.

“Right handed, I’m more of a power pitcher,” Brunnig says. “As of now, I’m a fastball pitcher—fastball, slider, forkball or splitter and a little curve. Left handed, I use more movement…[and] try to spot it a little more.” (The Harvard Crimson)

He never threw with both arms in the same game, but he was 2 starters in one. He threw each start entirely with the same arm, and on a different start on a different day he would use a different arm. Maybe that was because he didn't use a 6 fingered glove. He used separate gloves for each hand, and never switched sides in the middle of a game.

Career Notes:

6-foot-7 switch-pitcher Matt Brunnig went 4-3 with a 3.55 earned-run average for Harvard during his freshman season in 2003.

"What are the cost/benefits of ambidextrous baseball pitching at the college level?" - Answer from Matt Brunnig , ambidextrous pitcher at Harvard
Pros:It's a cool talent to have and it will help market your name.It's great to have another hand to turn to if you can play outfield.Lefty's have better curveballs...even when they're also righties. Cons:It is a lot more work, if you aren't willing to put the time in don't try it.It is more stress on the back, sometimes my back got sore after pitching lefty.Getting a soft throw touch with the alternate hand is difficult, I would try to actively develop that if I could do it again. 

Ambidextrous Harvard Pitcher Brunnig a Double Threat to Hitters ...

Pretty Fly for a Shy Guy - The Harvard Crimson
Switch-pitcher seeks team glory while avoiding the spotlight

Injuries Leave Baseball With Arms Tied Behind Back - The Harvard Crimson, Feb 25, 2004

No gimmick: Floridian is two pitchers in one - St. Petersburg Times

A real double threat: Harvard's Brunnig is two good - The Milford Daily News

Matt Brunnig Statistics (2003-2006) - The Baseball Cube
11-9 record with a 4.83 ERA over 42 games pitched

High School Stats: 15-3 for Warner Christian

Matt Brunnig, the ambidextrous pitcher who was 15-3 for Warner Christian, was at one point hopeful of being drafted in the first 10 rounds, but interest waned as Brunnig dealt with soreness in his right arm. He now appears to be ticketed for Harvard and college ball.
"I threw a lot of innings this year [98 right-handed], and I just didn't have the velocity the last few starts," Brunnig said Monday after missing a scheduled start for the Central Florida Renegades summer team.

Hotshot Pitcher is a Righty and a Lefty
Matt Brunnigq, A Senior Star for Warner Christian, is Attracting Major League Scouts.
April 25, 2002 | By Buddy Collings, Orlando Sentinel

DELAND -- Matt Brunnig was a novelty in the DeLand Little League when he was able to pitch with either arm.
A decade later, he's still doing it. And the buzz about the home-schooled Florida boy who can throw more than 80 mph from either side is bouncing around college and pro baseball dugouts from Daytona Beach to Seattle.

runnig, who leads Central Florida in pitching wins (12-2) and strikeouts (139) for Class A state championship contender Warner Christian, caught the eyes of scouts in fall ball when he played with an 18-and-under traveling-team league, the Central Florida Renegades. That exposure coincided with a growth spurt and added velocity. Brunnig, 18, said he has been contacted by 18 major-league teams.

"This kid's the real deal," said Frank Viola, a 15-year major-league pitcher and 1988 Cy Young Award winner who now coaches Lake Highland Prep. "He's got the big-time, tall, lanky body, great arm speed. He might be just a hair under a Zack Greinke [of Apopka], if at all. And he's a great kid to boot. The interesting thing is going to be seeing which arm he makes his money with."

Read More

Baseball NotebookBy Chase Goodbread, May 14, 2002

Daytona Beach Warner Christian pitcher Matt Brunnig, who threw last night against St. Petersburg Northside Christian in a Class A semifinal, can pitch effectively with either arm.

The 6-foot-6 Brunnig has approached 90 mph with his right-handed fastball, and regularly reaches the low 80s with his fastball from the left side.

He leads Central Florida in wins (12) and strikeouts (123), is unbeaten with his right arm (10-0), and carries a 2.45 ERA with his left arm.

Former Twins pitcher Frank Viola, now a coach at Orlando Lake Highland Prep, told the Orlando Sentinel: "The interesting thing is going to be seeing which arm he makes his money with."

Brunnig has been projected to go in the top 20 rounds of the Major League Baseball draft next month.


1932 New York Yankees, No. 4 Lou Gehrig » Oldtime Baseball Game

Oldtime Game History - Fittingly, this uniform was first worn in the 1998 Game by a man who was himself a former New York Yankee, Medford native Mike Pagliarulo. He wore our Mickey Mantle home Yankees uniform in 1999, and returned to the Lou Gehrig road uniform in 2000. This uniform was also featured prominently in the 2003 Game, as it was worn by Matt Bruning, an ambidextrous pitcher from Harvard University. Pitching right-handed, he worked one shutout inning for the home team in the Mickey Mantle uniform, and then switched into the Lou Gehrig uniform and submitted a shutout inning from the left side. 


Baseball in Europe

Namur Angels, Merchtem Cats bolster Rosters, Europe gets a Switch Pitcher

June 10, 2008,
Trying to make a push towards the playoffs the Namur Angels have added outfielder/pitcher Matt Brunnig to help out for a month. He went 2-for-4 in his debut last Saturday and is expected to join the bullpen next weekend. He spent four seasons at Harvard University (NCAA Division I) between 2003 and 2006. He had a 12-9 record with an ERA of 4.78 in 43 games (18 starts). He struck out 93 batters in 133 2/3 innings, walking 44.
Brunnig is an ambidextrous pitcher and can throw from either the left or the right side. Even though he brought both gloves with him he is likely only going to pitch right-handed in regular games. He played together with Trey Hendricks in Harvard, who is currently playing in the German Baseball-Bundesliga for the Saarlouis Hornets.

2010 in Review – Belgian First Division – Namur Angels

Best Batter: Matt Brunnig. Usually known for his pitching abilities as a switch pitcher, the Harvard graduate had quite an impact on the Namur team, although he didn’t play that much. He went 9-for-22 with two triples, three doubles, five runs and six RBI.
Read more

Namur Angels Baseball | Facebook

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

New Pitching Rules for Ambidextrous Pitchers

What happens when an ambidextrous pitcher faces off against a switch-hitting batter?

Henry Knight, ambidextrous pitcher - Columbia City Reds

The "Venditte Rule"

With Venditte able to throw with either arm, he will have to declare whether he will pitch right-handed or left-handed at the start of each at-bat. Venditte won't be allowed to routinely change arms like he once could. A minor-league confrontation with a switch hitter led to the "Venditte Rule." - Alex Schiffer,

2015 Official Baseball Rule 5.07(f) (formerly 2014 OBR 8.01(f)) covers this situation:
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.
 Read more about the Venditte Rule

Ambidextrous Venditte creates a stir
Switch-pitcher causes commotion in Minor League game

Venditte's versatility prompts new rule

Comparison of High School and Pro Baseball rules for ambidextrous pitchers

NFHS RuleReferenceReferencePro Rule
If a pitcher is ambidextrous, the umpire shall require the pitcher to face a batter as either a left-handed pitcher or a right-handed pitcher, but not both
8.18 PBUC Umpire Manual
Pitcher must visually indicate which way he will pitch...pitcher must throw one pitch to the batter before any "switch" by either player is allowed...afterwards each may switch once per at bat
Click here for story behind rule

source: NFHS / Pro Baseball Rules Differences by Steve Orinick

College Baseball - NCAA 2013 Rule Book
Rule 9/Pitching p85

k. Pitch both right-handed and left-handed to the same batter during a plate appearance (ambidextrous-pitcher rule).
PENALTY—If a pitcher changes pitching hands during a batter’s time at bat, the umpire shall:
(1) Call a balk if a runner(s) is on base;
(2) Call a ball for an illegal pitch if no runner(s) is on base;
(3) Warn the pitcher; or
(4) Eject the pitcher if the offense is repeated.
A.R. 1—When facing a switch hitter, an ambidextrous pitcher shall declare the hand with which to pitch to the hitter.
A.R. 2—If a pinch hitter replaces a batter during a turn at bat, the pitcher may change pitching hands.

New Pitching Rule in 2013 for Little League Switch Pitchers

Ambidextrous Pitcher Rules - Little League

Dixie Youth Baseball
Ambidextrous Pitchers - Official Ruling 14-04 - Dixie Baseball (pdf)