by Randy Ooney
My Nickel’s Worth by Randy Ooney
Back in my Little League days, coaches would holler “two hands!!” about 40 times at nearly every practice. As youngsters, we were prone to keep our bare hand out of the way of the baseball for fear of getting hurt. But our gloves were not the soft leather deep pocket ball capturing equipment of today. They were more like the texture and shape of a four day old Bisquick pancake so we had to use our bowling hand to keep the ball off the ground.
I’m not sure if Jason Belmonte ever played baseball. If he did, he is too young to ever have used the pancake leather. But he made a decision to bowl with two hands at an early age, and his success on the PBA tour is raising the eyebrows of his peers and us spectators. Although the two handed delivery of a professional may be unique, it is not new. Many years ago I bowled in leagues and tournaments with Karl Jenne and Larry Harvanko. Both of them chose a two handed delivery and averaged over 200. Karl, a lefty, shot all of his spares two handed, while Larry shot his right side spares with a conventional one handed delivery. I was forced to try a two handed delivery in Alex one year when my thumb swelled up like a balloon. My high game was 179 - but my doubles partner forgave me.
What is truly amazing to me are bowlers who, usually due to some injury, have taught themselves to bowl from the other side of their body. I knew Don Theis as a right handed bowler for years, but now he can average 200 throwing right or left. I’m not sure if he needed to, or if he just got tired of drock getting all the cake conditions on the left side of the lane. Doug Shellum had to become a lefty and has built his average up to the 170 range. I only use my left hand to high five teammates, to protect myself against Pro Release wrist brace injury, so I never have to try to bowl lefty.
I am also amazed at the proficiency of switch hitters in baseball. Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray each hit over 200 home runs from each side of the plate, and the Mick did it most times with a hangover. Switch hitter Pete Rose got more hits than any other player in the game in the past 150 years. But I also have to mention Jim Abbott who pitched in the majors for 10 years. Jim did not have the choice that most of us have because he was born without a right hand. But he won 87 major league games with his left hand, was able to field his position, and threw a no hit no run game against the Cleveland Indians in 1993.
That brings us to the present day, and with Jason Belmonte making bowling news, the New York Yankees have a pitching prospect who is ambidextrous. That’s right, Pat Venditte can pitch with either arm. I know the USBC keeps separate stats for right/left bowling. I wonder if MLB will have two columns for this guy. Umpire Joe West recently chastised the Bronx Bombers and Bloody Sox when their first week of games lasted nearly 4 hours each. What happens if Venditte makes the show and a switch hitter comes to the plate? Time out - give me my other glove. Time out - let me get into the other batters box. Wait - Time out….we could be in for a real long game.