Arts & Humanities
--Gifted & Talented
Will a young ambidextrous pitcher make his way to the major leagues?
Write the terms major leagues, spring training, and farm teams on a board or chart. Give students an opportunity to describe what they know about each term. Spring training is the time before the regular baseball season begins. Many players show up at spring training, hoping to win a spot on the major league team. How they perform determines whether they will make the team or play for one of the minor league teams, also known as farm teams.
Next, write the word nickname on the board. Ask students to explain what a nickname is. Do any of the students go by nicknames? Let them share their own nicknames or nicknames of people they know, including sports personalities, and explain the special meaning behind those nicknames. You might invite them to talk about (guess) how the following nicknames of current and former major league baseball players originated:
Hammerin Hank" Aaron (he hammered" 755 home runs during his career, a record that stood for many, many years)
Yogi" Berra (since his last name was Berra, which sounds a lot like bear, his nickname was borrowed from the cartoon character Yogi Bear)
Steve Lefty" Carlton (he was one of the best left-handed pitchers ever; he has the second-highest number of strikeouts ever among left-handed pitchers [4th highest among all pitchers])
Roger The Rocket" Clemens (his blazing fastball topped 90 miles per hour)
Leo The Lip" Durocher (he argued a lot with umpires; that is, he gave umpires a lot of lip")
Charles Gabby" Hartnett (his teammates gave him this ironic nickname because he was so quiet)
Jim Catfish" Hunter (there is no real story here; the owner of the team that Hunter played for gave him the nickname because he felt the name Jim Hunter was too bland)
Bill Maz" Mazeroski
Mike Moose" Mussina
Cal Iron Man" Ripken (Ripken must have been made of iron because he set the record for most consecutive games played [2,632 games] without a day off)
Brooks The Human Vacuum Cleaner" Robinson (he was one of the best defensive infielders ever; he was known for making incredible stops)
Alex A-Rod" Rodriguez (the A" is for Alex, the Rod" is a shortened version of his last name)
Slammin' Sammy" Sosa (Sosa, a home run king, slammed" a lot of round-trippers out of the park)
Pat Venditte was a fan favorite when he played for the Creighton University (Omaha, Nebraska) Bluejays. A local middle schooler did this interview when Venditte showed up in Omaha for an alumni weekend last fall.
You might share these additional facts with students after they have read this weeks news story.
Pat Venditte is the only pitcher in professional baseball at this time who pitches with both hands. He has a 90 mph fastball, a curve, and a nice change-up from the right side. From the left side, he pitches sidearm; he has a slider and a change-up.
His college pitching coach called him Dexter," a play on the word ambidextrous, which means able to use both hands equally well.
Last year, in 49 games with the two Yankee farm teams (Charleston A, Tampa A+), Venditte had a 4-2 record and an earned-run average under 2.0. He gave up only two home runs all year.
Vendittes flexibility could be a big advantage for a team. Most pitchers cant pitch several days in a row because they need to rest their pitching arms. Since Venditte uses both arms, neither arm will tire as quickly.
On July 3, 2008, the Professional Baseball Umpire Corporation released its official rule for dealing with ambidextrous pitchers. The rule reads:
The pitcher must visually indicate to the umpire, batter, and runner(s) which way he will begin pitching to the batter. The pitcher must throw one pitch to the batter before any switch" by either player is allowed. After one pitch is thrown, the pitcher and batter may each change positions one time per at-bat. Each player must remain that way for the duration of that at-bat.
Many people have been confused when the switch-pitching Venditte is on the mound. After one Little League game, a coach approached Vendittes father and told him, Your twins pitched a heck of a game."
Venditte knows that he has to work hard if he expects to make the major leagues. I know I wouldn't be this far without [being able to pitch from both sides]," he told ESPN. "I don't have dominating stuff from one side or the other. I need both."
Venditte also knows that pitching with both arms doesnt ensure that he will ever play in the major leagues. "It's my job to go out there and prove that I can pitch," Venditte told reporters after his spring training appearance this year. People are going to have their doubts when they hear something like this, and I've got to prove that I can do it."
In the last century, only one other pitcher, Greg Harris, has pitched from both sides. In 1995, in the next to the last game of his career, Harris threw one scoreless inning for the Montreal Expos. If you go back more than a century in baseball history, however, there have been a handful of reports of other pitchers who have to pitch both lefty and righty.
Reading the News
You might use a variety of approaches to reading the news:
Read aloud the news story to students as they follow along.
Students might first read the news story to themselves; then you might call on individual students to read sections of the news aloud for the class.
Photocopy the news story onto a transparency and project it onto a screen. (Or use your classroom computer's projector to project the story.) Read the story aloud as a class, or ask students to take turns reading it.
Arrange students into small groups. Each student in the group will read a paragraph of the story. As that student reads, others might underline important information or write notes in the margin of the story. After each student finishes reading, others in the group might say something -- a comment, a question, a clarification -- about the text.
Use the News: Answer Key Reading Comprehension: Reading for Detail. 1.T, 2.F, 3.F, 4.T. 5.T, 6.F, 7.T, 8.F, 9.F, 10.F. Language Practice: Building Vocabulary. 1.c, 2.b, 3.b, 4.a, 5.d. Reading Comprehension: Whats the Main Idea? Statement a tells the main idea: A pitcher like Pat Venditte doesnt come along very often.
Use the Use the News printable page as an assessment. Or have students work on their own (in their journals) or in their small groups to respond to the Think About the News question on the news story page.