Ambidextrous pitcher gains notoriety
ELGIN, Ill. -- Professional scouts are paying increasing attention to a right-handed pitcher and a left-handed pitcher from a tiny school in Elgin, Ill., and it happens to be the same player.
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Ryan Perez has become a spectacle for fans and scouts to witness at Westminster Christian, a school of 350 students in Chicago's suburbs. Perez can throw a fastball, changeup, cutter and curveball with both arms, and he's been clocked at 90 mph right-handed and 87 mph left-handed.
"To them, it's so weird," said Perez, whose father began teaching him to use both arms as a toddler. "To me, it's natural."
Not since the 19th century has Major League Baseball seen a consistent switch-pitcher. Former San Diego Padres pitcher Greg Harris threw one inning both ways in 1995. Currently, Pat Venditte is working his way through the New York Yankees farm system as an ambidextrous relief pitcher.
Following behind Venditte could be Perez.
"If you got to win one game, I'm going to pick him," one American League scout said. "He can really pitch. He's a crafty, crafty guy. It's not like he's just hitting 82. I've seen him in a tryout camp where he was 87-88 from the left and around 91-92 from the right. That's legit velocity.
"On his sheer ability of throwing strikes and commanding the strike zone, I definitely think teams will take a look at him. I think people will definitely have interest in him."
Perez's two arms have been no match for the local competition this season. He has a 9-1 record with a 1.56 ERA and 131 strikeouts in 63 innings this season. He's pitched predominately left-handed (44 innings) because he also plays at shortstop and third base right-handed when he's not on the mound.
"The major leagues is what I'm shooting for," Perez said. "That would be awesome to get to the majors and pitch both ways and hit 90 [mph.] I would be the first one to pitch 90 and consistently throwing left and right. It would be great for the show."
Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.