CHICAGO (CBS) — Have you ever heard one of Yogi Berra’s famous “yogi’isms” about a switch hitter? “He hits from both sides of the plate…he’s amphibious!”
An ambidextrous batter isn’t a rare creature in baseball, but an ambidextrous pitcher is. As CBS 2’s Megan Mawicke reports, two hands are better than one for a local high school hurler.
Ryan Perez is a southpaw and a righty too. The pitcher from Elgin Westminster Christian High School is ambidextrous. The rare switch pitcher gets plenty of looks from his opponents.
“I see them laughing, joking around when I am warming up on the mound and I just give them a smile. For me it’s normal. For other people I’m sure it is very weird for them,” Perez said.
Rules don’t allow Ryan to switch arms between pitches but he can alternate between batters and innings. Recently he fooled the opposing coach in a game.
“The other coach asked, you got two players with the number nine and he was serious. Ryan’s coach said no and the coach said c’mon you must have two players with the number nine. It’s always been interesting, the umpires’ reaction, ballplayers and the opposing team,” said Ryan’s father and coach, Juan Perez.
Ryan plays with a special mitt that he can wear on either hand. It was his dad who taught Ryan how to use both hands as a toddler. This past spring, Ryan went 9-1, with a 1.56 ERA. He has a full arsenal of pitches and is the first high school pitcher to be clocked over 90 mph with both arms.
“The fastball, the changeup, the curve and the slider on both sides, and he has the velocity. The velocity was surprising. I didn’t think he would touch 90 at this age, but he been gunned on scouts and colleges on 90 both ways,” his father said.
Pitching with both arms has its advantages, but what a lot of people don’t realize is that he has to put in double the work and needs to practice fielding from both sides. On top of that, he‘s also a switch hitter.
“I think we went a little crazy on the thing. I went for the full package,” said Juan Perez.
“He (my dad) would tell me I have to work out twice as long. I would take a bucket of balls left-handed fielding then right-handed. Then I would do a bucket of fly balls left and right handed. After that I would still have to pitch and hit,” said Ryan Perez.
In 1995, one big leaguer threw just one inning both ways. Currently, the Yankees have an ambidextrous relief pitcher in the minors, but there’s never been a consistent switch pitcher in the majors.
Ryan said his ultimate goal is “To get to the major leagues and show them I can hit 90-90 both ways and be the first one to do it.”
Ryan said he likes to start games left-handed, because his right hand is more dominant and he likes to close the game with his right hand. He threw a perfect game and one no-hitter this past spring. He is hoping to be drafted next year and his dream is to play for his favorite team, the White Sox.