Minor league pitcher Pat Venditte is a pretty versatile guy. He can throw multiple innings out of the bullpen. He mixes overhand and sidearm deliveries. And, oh yeah, he pitches with both arms. (No big deal.)
Venditte, the topic of an ESPN column last season and the primary setup man for the Single-A Tampa Bay Yankees, is pro baseball's only ambidextrous pitcher. The Yanks were in Jupiter, Fla., last Friday, where Venditte caught most of the ballpark -- including Cheers & Jeers -- off-balance with his unique talent.
Minor league baseball players -- even at the highest level -- generally enjoy a certain level of anonymity. For Venditte, that anonymity comes on the road, where his relatively famous ability is masked because, well, nobody pays much attention to relief pitchers in the Florida State League.
The 6-foot-1, um, "bi-hander" entered a 1-0 game in the eighth inning with one out and a runner in scoring position and promptly struck out Jupiter Hammerheads second baseman Emilio Ontiveros pitching right-handed. The next batter was left-handed hitting Kevin Mattison, and Venditte -- using a specially made six-fingered glove with two thumbs -- turned around and, now throwing lefty, fanned Mattison to end the threat. At first, Venditte's switch-pitching barely registered to the sleepy crowd of 1,196. That didn't last long.
"Did they just switch pitchers?" asked a patron seated along the third-base line.
Not exactly. Just throwing arms.