The Washington Post

Doug Fister is ambidextrous? Jordan Zimmermann writes left-handed?

Doug Fister. (AP Photo)

Baseball is one of the few workplaces where your handedness truly matters. And while it doesn’t make a big difference for any of the following players, the Nationals have a handful of pitchers with an interesting ability to use both hands for common tasks. Doug Fister, who makes his Nationals Park debut on Tuesday, is chief among them.

When he takes the mound for his third start of the season, Fister will throw with his right arm. But he will bat left-handed. That is only the beginning of the oddities with Fister’s handedness.

When he played soccer as a little kid, Fister could kick with either foot. He writes left-handed. He signs autographs left-handed. But sometimes, he writes with his other hand, such as when visits the classroom of his fiancee, who is a teacher, and he writes on the chalkboard with his right hand.

“I’m pretty well screwed up,” he said with a grin.


Ever since he was a child, Fister has used both hands to throw and grabbed which ever glove felt comfortable that day. He can’t remember exactly when he focused solely on pitching with his right arm, but he has maintained his ambidextrous ability since.

Fister has a left-hander’s glove that he has used in the past, but hasn’t yet brought it to Washington. But when he is feeling sore in between starts, Fister grabs his spare left-hander’s glove and throws with his left hand when shagging flyballs. But how accurate is he throwing with his opposite hand?

“I can hit the screen on a line,” he said. “Stuff like that. Have fun with it and screw around.”

Fister isn’t ambidextrous with a bat; he always swings left-handed. Although he spent all of his career until now in the American League, Fister can handle the bat well for a pitcher. He is 4 for 16 in his career with two RBI. He wears a pad on his right elbow when hitting to protect his exposed throwing arm.

Fister isn’t alone among his teammates with an opposite, and sometimes unusual, pairing of handedness. Starter Gio Gonzalez throws left-handed but bats right-handed and signs autographs right-handed. Reliever Ross Detwiler throws left-handed and bats right-handed — but writes left-handed. (Former Nationals and current Angels reliever Sean Burnett wrote right-handed but threw left-handed.)

Starter Jordan Zimmerman does most everything right-handed: throws, bats, shoots when hunting, uses his fork and, with his right foot, kicks. But, oddly, Zimmermann writes left-handed. He isn’t sure how that happened when he was younger. “I don’t know,” he said earlier this season.

“If you’ve seen Jordan’s handwriting, I think he’s right-handed,” Detwiler said, with a laugh, earlier this season.

Fister finds that his ability to have hand-eye coordination with both sides of his body adds a unique perspective.

“Until you break your finger or your wrist or something like that, you can’t do certain things like pulling up your zipper,” he said. “Things were built for certain people. Right-handed scissors when you’re left-handed are different. Shirts are different. Stuff like that. There’s a lot of things people don’t realize that, if you paid attention to both ways, change your perspective.”

James Wagner joined the Post in August 2010 and, prior to covering the Nationals, covered high school sports across the region.



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James Wagner · May 20, 2014