What Might Have Been

At the amateur draft earlier this month the New York Yankees selected pitcher Pat Venditte from Creighton in the 20th round. This is the second consecutive season that the Yankees have drafted him. I had heard of Venditte before and I was kind of hoping that the Arizona Diamondbacks might take a flier on him and draft him. Venditte is one of those pitchers that I would pay to see throw if for no other reason than to tell people I was there to witness this young kid. Venditte is not known for an overpowering fastball nor has he been described as having a filthy breaking ball that will make a hitter’s knees buckle in the box. But he does offer something that I have never seen in my lifetime and may never see again and that is worth something especially in this day and age of pitcher specialization.

When Pat Venditte arrived at Creighton college he did so without a scholarship waiting. He walked on and earned a spot on the team. He appeared in 5 games during his freshman year and looking at him you would think he would be an average pitcher. During his sophomore season Pat accumulated 62.2 innings and during that time his ERA was 3.02. Opposing batters hit .185 against him. During that year he had a streak of 43.2 scoreless innings. These stats earned him first-team all-conference honors. What was most interesting was the way Pat Venditte pitched. He is a “switch pitcher”.

Many people have heard of switch hitters who can hit from either side of the plate but Venditte is a switch-pitcher meaning he is ambidextrous and can pitch with either hand. I am not talking about lobbing a ball or playing catch. I am talking about full motion pitching using either hand. I can tell you from my years of pitching at various levels that it was hard enough trying to get my mechanics down just throwing left-handed. I cannot even imagine what it must be like trying to manage two different motions that mirror one another. Pat Venditte has a specially created mitt with 6 fingers that allows it to be flipped over so it can be used with either hand.

Just think about the possibilities of having a “switch pitcher” on your staff. You are late in the game and you call down to the bullpen for your best reliever. He is in to face a tough right-handed batter so you call for a right handed pitcher. The next batter in the line-up is a lefty. Instead of burning up another pitcher you have your “switch pitcher” just switch hands and throw. It would give a coach some added flexibility and another weapon to use. This had to be what the Yankees were thinking when they drafted Pat in the 45th round of the 2007 draft. Rather than signing Venditte went back to Creighton for his senior year. This time he moved up to being a 20th round draft pick again for the Yankees.

After signing Pat Venditte was sent to the Staten Island Yankees. He made his professional debut on June 19 against the Brooklyn Cyclones who are the New York Mets affiliate. Venditte entered the game in the ninth inning. He retired the first two hitters he faced and with two outs the Cyclones sent Ralph Henriquez to the plate. This is where the fun began. Henriquez is a switch-hitter and he was about to face a “switch-pitcher”. He got into the left-hand batters box and prepared for the pitch. Venditte upon seeing Henriquez bat left-handed switched his mitt to be a left-handed pitcher. Henriquez seeing that he was now facing a lefty moved over to the right-hand batter’s box to bat right-handed. Venditte immediately switched his mitt to the other hand and became a right-handed pitcher. This went back and forth several times before both coaches called time to talk to the umpire. It was clear that this was going to go on forever unless there was a ruling. The home plate umpire decided that it would be up to Ralph Henriquez to commit to one side or another and once committed had to remain batting from that side. Henriquez elected to hit left-handed. Venditte then declared that he would pitch left-handed. Pat Venditte struck out a very frustrated Ralph Henriquez who slammed the bat down. Pat Venditte recroded the save and the Staten Island Yankees won the game. It will be interesting to follow his career and hopefully he will be able to make it to the major leagues where he will be only the second “switch-pitcher” to appear in a game in baseball’s modern era. The answer to the trivia question of who was the first “switch-pitcher” during the major leagues modern era? Greg A Harris who played from 1981 to 1995 for the New York Mets, Cincinnati Reds, Montreal Expos, San Diego Padres, Texas Rangers, Philadelphia Phillies, Boston Red Sox, and of course the New York Yankees. Harris was predominately a right-handed pitcher but on September 28, 1995 Harris pitched to Reggie Sanders as a right-handed pitcher then threw to Hal Morris and Ed Taubensee as a lefty then threw to Bret Boone as a right-hander to end the inning.

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