“Now pitching for the Oakland Athletics, right-hander — and left-hander — Pat Venditte.”
Nearly a half-century ago, we put a man on the moon. That was not nearly as giant of a leap as putting a switch pitcher on the mound.
Switch hitter? Piece of cake.
Switch pitcher? Piece of history.
Reliever Pat Venditte, 29, was recently called up by the Oakland Athletics and, earlier this month, became only the second major leaguer to pitch with both arms in a game.
The one guy who did it before him — the Expos’ Greg Harris — did it Sept. 28, 1995, facing four batters, essentially as a one-time gimmick in his next-to-last big league appearance. Venditte is switch pitching from his first appearance and, hopefully, for many, many years, though at the moment he is on the 15-day disabled list.
Amazingly, the ambidextrous Venditte has been doing this since pre-K. When he was 3 years old, he was taught to throw with both arms by his father, Pat Sr., who, strangely enough, also taught him to punt a football with both legs.
My father, meanwhile, taught me to talk out of both sides of my mouth.
If orange is the new black, ambidextrous could be the new bilingual.
(That might not make any sense, but I needed a bridge to the next section of the column.)
This ambidextrous thing is fascinating, no?
Benjamin Franklin could fly a kite with either hand.
Albert Einstein could think just as well with his left brain as his right brain.
Bernard Madoff could commit securities fraud reaching into both of your pockets.
The 20th U.S. president, James Garfield, reputedly could simultaneously write Greek with his left hand and Latin with his right hand.
By contrast, many University of North Carolina administrators can simultaneously forge faculty signatures on grade rolls and facilitate unauthorized grade changes with their left hand and create sham classes for student-athletes not to attend with their right hand.
If God had been ambidextrous, he might have been able to create the world in, say, four days, creating a three-day weekend from the get-go for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
(Vacation properties and resort hotels were scarce at that time, so they likely would have gone the Airbnb route.)
Venditte wears a custom-made, six-fingered glove — with a thumb hole on each side — first used by the six-fingered man who killed Inigo Montoya’s father in “The Princess Bride.”
In his first minor league appearance — on June 19, 2008 — the age-old question, “What would happen if a switch hitter batted against a switch pitcher?” was answered.
Venditte was pitching for the Staten Island Yankees against the Brooklyn Cyclones in a Class A game when switch hitter Ralph Henriquez came up. Like an Abbott and Costello comedy routine, they both took turns changing sides — Venditte got ready to pitch as a right-hander, so Henriquez prepared to bat lefty, then Venditte switched to lefty and Henriquez switched to the other side of the plate. This went on for a minute or so.
This led to the so-called “Pat Venditte Rule” — the pitcher has to decide first which arm he’s going to use and stay with it in an at-bat against a switch hitter — which, of course, calls to mind the oft-overlooked “Tommy John Rule,” limiting how many times a pitcher can have Tommy John surgery in one season.
In the minors, if Venditte’s pitch count got too high left-handed, they would just have him throw the rest of the day right-handed to conserve his arm for the next day.
(FIFA officials accepting bribes actually pioneered this technique.)
What an incredible weapon this fella is — twice the pitch capacity as anyone else, half the laundry costs of two middle relievers.
Anyway, I don’t want to overstate matters, but switch pitching might be the biggest technological innovation since the Internet.
Heck, if he were transgender, Venditte might have even made the cover of Vanity Fair.
(Footnote: In honor of Venditte, I typed this entire column using an index finger from each hand. That’s why it has such a digitus secundus feel to it.)
Q. Just visited the Pro Football Hall of Fame and saw that on Dec. 8, 1940, the Chicago Bears beat the Washington Redskins, 73-0, to set an all-time record. Has Daniel Snyder really been the owner of the Redskins that long? (Frank Hanou; Indianapolis)
A. Coincidentally, that was the day Snyder also decided to start removing seats from Griffith Stadium and to increase parking prices intermittently.
Q. The NBA admitted that the officials missed a traveling call on LeBron James. Isn’t that like you admitting that you had a disagreement with one of your ex-wives? (Joel Block; Arlington)
A. I see no reason to drag the unfortunate mismanagement of my personal life into the ongoing spectacle of the NBA Finals.
Q. With all the arrests of FIFA officials for bribery, racketeering and money laundering, will Americans now “get” soccer? (Perry Beider; Silver Spring)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
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