Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Getting Started as a Switch Pitcher


CAN YOU THROW BOTH RIGHT AND LEFT HANDED?

Being able to throw a baseball with both hands is cool, but it only means you are an ambidextrous thrower. Lots of kids can throw with either hand. It takes a lot of practice to become a switch pitcher.


What is a switch pitcher?

The switch pitcher is an ambidextrous baseball player who can consistently throw strikes from both sides - right-handed and left-handed. Switch pitchers are extremely rare


Ambidextrous pitchers in College, High School and Youth Leagues

Pat Venditte is an ambidextrous pitcher in the big leagues who pitched at Creighton University and was drafted twice by the NY Yankees. 

A few switch pitchers played for Division I colleges. Two successful switch pitchers played for Harvard University. I recently put together a list of College Switch Pitchers.


A handful of high school players are ambidextrous and can pitch with either arm. Drew Vettleson, a top high school player from Washington state was an ambidextrous pitcher. Vettleson now plays outfield in the minor leagues. As a freshman, switch pitcher Henry Knight was a starter on the Franklin Quakers varsity team. Knight is also a solid switch hitter, like other high school ambidextrous pitchers.


A few Little League players can switch pitch. Angel Macias pitched a perfect game in the 1957 Little League World Series.




Getting started

Most ambidextrous pitchers start throwing with both hands when they are only 3-years-old, but a few players have picked it up after they have played league baseball. 

My son, Henry, decided on his own to start throwing with both hands when he was nine years-old, and began switch pitching in games when he was 10. Switch pitching was relatively easy to do with proper instruction and regular practice. He started throwing tennis and whifle balls, then over the summer progressed to throwing baseballs. Playing catch for 10 to 15 minutes - three days a week - really helped to develop his non-dominant left arm.

Initially, I was concerned about his safety and being able to field a line drive with the opposite hand. Catching and fielding the ball turned out to be fairly easy to learn. There was no problem fielding hits in games and it's very tough to steal second base against a left-handed pitcher.


Perfect Practice, Makes Perfect
The essential component of being a good pitcher is regular, focused practice.

  • Throwing balls from a short distance into a bucket makes practice fun. No gloves are needed.
  • Practicing the pitching motion in front of a mirror really helps in developing good mechanics. No throwing required.
  • Alternating arms throwing balls in from the outfield, during batting practice, works well to develop lower body movement, coordination and throwing accuracy.
  • Trying to knock down a row of water bottles with a ball can be a nice challenge. Each bottle can be assigned points and it's fun competing with friends or parents (who have to throw with their weaker arm).
  • Practice throwing from second base to a player at first base. Then throw from shortstop to first base.
  • Start warmup throws at a short distance - about twenty feet - with ten good throws. Gradually move back five or ten feet, throw five good throws, then repeat until you reach the distance between bases.
Throwing Mechanics are Important
Make sure to have good throwing mechanics with one arm before trying throwing with both. It's a good idea to attend a pitching camp or take lessons from an experienced pitching coach. There is no reason to have poor throwing mechanics.


Bonus Advise

Learn to Switch Hit First
Most switch pitchers can also switch hit. Learning to switch hit before starting to throw with both arms works out well for many players. Switch hitters are rare and it gives the player an advantage, plus they tend to get extra playing time. In the MLB, about 20-25% of infielders are switch hitters

There is a much better chance of using switch hitting in tournaments than being able to switch pitch. Coaches prefer the pitchers to throw with their dominant arm in tournament play.

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2 comments:

  1. well, our son is both for sure, at 6 he was not as accurate with his right arm as a natural lefty I switched his glove- now he does well and is is 8 on a travel ball team in LA. His coach said his form is just not right- OKAY...I swapped and put him as a righty and he is dead on- and awesome form with no training. Obviously can do both since an early age. We are now working with the hitting too- he hits both ways in fun but always bats right in games. He did not want to swap from lefty to righty easily but now sais it feels better. Can do both well still. We will continue to work both ways. It's all for the love of the game~ not looking for a scholarship what so ever... but whatever works out for him best is all we want:)

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  2. Sounds like a good approach. Keep working on the switch hitting since this comes in handy in games. A college head coach recently told me - "if a coach tells your son to only hit from the stronger side, then it's time to find another team."

    Spend the offseason working on the weaker side - this will really pay off when pitching in the spring.

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