There are only two sports you cannot play using your left hand to hold a sports-related tool: polo and jai alai.
In polo, if you tried to play the game left-handed, your horse would be headed straight at the horse being ridden by a right-handed player. While you swing at the ball with your left hand and your opponent swings at the ball with his right hand, your two horses will be running into each other nose into nose, and a large mess would ensue.
Jai Alai, a sport widely unknown in the United States, requires that a ball (called a pelota in Spanish) is thrown against a wall using a cesta, a curved device used to both catch and throw the ball. It must be thrown against a wall in front of the players and can bounce off a wall to the left of the players, but the right side of the players is marked by a net that balls cannot touch. Therefore, a left-handed jai alai player would be throwing the ball out of bounds on every play.
So, if you are left-handed, take polo and jai alai off your list of sports to get involved with.
However, if you happen to be ambidextrous, there is a sport that now embraces that skill, or ability, or freak of nature. It’s baseball.
I bring this up to discuss the fate of pitcher Pat Venditte, who throws both left-handed and right-handed. He is equally adept at both. He is currently at Triple-A in the Oakland A’s system.
I heard about him earlier this year, and have had numerous discussions with sports knowledgeable fans about one topic. Can Venditte switch hands between pitches, to the same batter? Can he switch hands between batters in the same inning?
In June of 2008, Venditte was pitching for the Staten Island Yankees, and pitching against switch-hitting Ralph Henriquez of the Brooklyn Cyclones. In what turned out to be the last at-bat of the game, Henriquez switched sides every time Venditte switched his specially made glove from right hand to left, because in baseball, there is an advantage for a right-handed pitcher to throw to a right-handed batter, and vice-versa.
Eventually, the home plate umpire told Henriquez to pick a side. He went right, Venditte went right, and struck out Henriquez on fourth pitches.
Soon thereafter, Major League baseball set a rule stating that a switch-pitcher is required to declare which hand he is going to pitch with before a batter steps into the batter’s box.
That is so unfair. As an ambidextrous person myself, I find this patently discriminating against Venditte’s skill. It’s just another example that baseball prefers offense to defense.
The Oakland A’s are the perfect team for Venditte to ply his trade. Like the Oakland Raiders, the A’s are baseball’s oddball franchise. They have been equated to the Island of Misfit Toys. He would give the team an unbelievable weapon to use against teams with a large number of switch-hitters.
Switching hands, by the way, is something that can be done in other sports with success. There is no reason tennis players ever have to use a backhand if they can play a forehand with both hands. Lacrosse was born for switch-handers. Golf, unfortunately, would require two sets of clubs, but there are shots in the game that benefit left-handers over rightys, and a switch-hitter would certainly have some more save opportunities from the rough, or behind a tree.
I am rooting for Venditte to succeed. It would be a rally cry for those of us who never really know which hand to use when required to do so.