The Switch Pitcher

Pat Venditte, a minor league player who can pitch with both arms.
CBS
Pat Venditte is a pitcher who puts on his pants just like every other minor leaguer. But when it comes to his glove …

It's a six-fingered glove," Venditte said. "There's two thumbs. There's one pocket here in the middle."

That's when you realize he is unlike any pitcher you've ever seen, blessed not with one great arm, but two, reports CBS News correspondent Jim Axelrod.

The reversible glove allows him to switch pitch in a moment's notice, throwing a 90 mile-an-hour fastball with his right arm, then unleashing a collection of baffling curves with his left.

"You know, it's really the only way I know how to pitch," Venditte said. "And for me to go out there with only, you know, only my right arm or my left arm, I don't know if I would be that effective."

As the top reliever for the Charleston, S.C., RiverDogs, a Yankees Class A farm team, Venditte averages nearly two strikeouts an inning.

"It all started when I was three," Venditte said. "My dad started working with me."

"Three? Three years old?" Axelrod asked.

"Three, yeah," Venditte said. "Just started going to work then and been going ever since."

In baseball, right-handed pitchers prefer to face right-handed batters. Lefties like to face lefties. That's because it makes it tougher for the hitter to see the ball, and hit it.

That is the big advantage for Pat Venditte's ability to throw with both arms. But what happens with the switch pitcher faces a switch hitter?

Chaos. Last summer, when Venditte faced a switch hitter, each kept switching sides, until the umpire ordered the hitter to choose his side and stick with it. After that, professional baseball decided the pitcher must declare first which arm he'll use. Once the batter steps in, both can switch only once during the at-bat. It's now known as the Venditte rule.

"Anytime the umpires have to change a rule, you know, so that they know to whom he is addressing the ball, you got a live one on your hands," said Mike Veeck, the RiverDogs president.

But keep in mind, only about 10 percent of minor league ball players ever make it to the majors.

"It's going good so far, but - long way to go," Venditte said. "We're still a long way away from big leagues. That's just the reality of it."

What are the chances of Pat making the bigs?

"The stats don't lie," Torrey Tyson, the manager of the RiverDogs, said. "He dominates at this level. I would be shocked if he didn't get a chance. "

Make that two chances, to beat some very long odds.

  • Jim Axelrod

    Jim Axelrod is the anchor of the Saturday edition of the "CBS Evening News" and a national correspondent for CBS News, reporting for the "CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley" and other CBS News broadcasts.