Just as he is a dual-handed pitcher, Pat Venditte is also a dual-citizen.
The sole full-time switch-pitcher in Major League Baseball history will be making his second appearance for Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic next month in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Led by manager Marco Mazzieri, Team Italy will look to improve upon their previous finish in 2013, where they upset Team Mexico to advance to the second round of the tournament. For Venditte, donning Team Italy’s colors is a feat he does not take lightly.
“Each opportunity that I’ve had with the Italian National Team has been an amazing experience and an honor every time to put on that uniform,” said Venditte, who also pitched in the 2014 European Cup. “For me and my family, it’s a tremendous honor that I’ll always cherish.”
Venditte, 31, is an Italian citizen who received his passport, allowing him to play in all tournaments in which the Italian national team participates in, not only the World Baseball Classic that takes place every four years. The Omaha, Nebraska native grew up in the Little Italy area of the city, where he currently resides.
“It’s obviously nothing of the scale of a New York and it’s even a little bit smaller than San Diego’s Little Italy, but that’s where my family came from once they came over from New York, they settled there in Omaha,” Venditte said. “Quite a few of my family members still live in the area. Our Italian heritage is very important to us.”
Since the age of three, Venditte has thrown with both arms and four years later, received his first custom-made six-fingered glove. Though he is naturally right-handed, his father, Pat Sr. trained his son to throw from both sides, allowing him to have an advantage during games.
During outings, Venditte switches pitching arms, earning him the advantage over hitters. His unique platoon battles earned him the installation of “The Pat Venditte Rule” back in 2008, the first professional season for Venditte when he played for the Class-A Short-Season, Staten Island Yankees. The rule states:
“The pitcher must visually indicate to the umpire, batter and runner(s) which way he will begin pitching to the batter. Engaging the rubber with the glove on a particular hand is considered a definitive commitment to which arm he will throw with. The batter will then choose which side of the plate he will bat from.”
After making his Major League debut with the Oakland Athletics in June 2015, Venditte has toed the rubber for three teams through his first two big league seasons, totaling 41 appearances and 50.2 innings thrown.
Over the offseason, Venditte worked on improving arm angles. Predominantly a switch-pitching sidearmer since 2014, Venditte started to mix in an “over the top” motion more frequently into his repertoire from the end of last season through the start of this year’s Spring Training. Having already thrown sidearm and from a three-quarter range, Venditte said he is looking forward to using all three this spring and during the regular season.
“I really focused on having more north and south depth on my pitches, as opposed to just side-to-side to handle the hitters that maybe see side-to-side spin a little bit better,” Venditte said. “That will hopefully give me a little bit more of an edge that I’ve been lacking the last couple of years.”
The trio of angles is an additional weapon to show the hitters, rather than just Venditte’s typical fastball and slider which he has relied on for the last couple of years. As a result, it gives the opposition different looks. During camp, Venditte will be hurling a fastball and curveball from an over the top angle, and a fastball and slider when he goes sidearm.
“I feel pretty good going into camp and it’s where it needs to be to get Major League hitters out,” he said.
With Spring Training in full-swing, Venditte, a non-roster invitee with the Seattle Mariners, threw one inning, striking out two for the Mariners in his first 2017 preseason appearance on Feb. 26 as he faced the San Diego Padres.
Last season, Venditte pitched in seven games for a total of 13.1 innings for Seattle, his second club of the 2016 season. Previously, Venditte made 23 appearances with the Toronto Blue Jays before being traded out west on Aug. 6, 2016. And for the switch-pitcher, his gameplan is the same as always this spring.
“It’s honestly the same as every Spring Training that I’ve been apart of and the last couple on the Major League side, it’s to go in and make a strong impression,” Venditte said. “You want to show them that you can help them at some point in the season, whether it be on Opening Day, fine, if it’s later in the year, whenever that may be, you want to just go in and make the best showing you can.”
Venditte will continue his spring tune-up as he prepares to arrive in Guadalajara, Mexico to join Team Italy next week.
Team Italy will open play March 9 in Pool D against Mexico, in a rematch from the 2013 World Baseball Classic.