Sunday, August 16, 2009

The southpaw challenge

I'm a southpaw, a lefty, one of the few, the proud, the 10% or so of people who drive the IT department nuts because our mouse is on the wrong side of the keyboard and the buttons are reversed. Of course, to make things easier, I adapted to a right-handed world. I didn't have much choice -- before the emergence of the Internet it was damn hard to find left-handed scissors, you know.

The one place I couldn't adapt was in sports. While I bat right for some reason, I throw left and, as a result, my options on the baseball field were limited (pitcher, first base, or outfield). The infield activities in baseball just are not designed for lefties. Put me at third base and it will look like I'm having spasms as I charge a bunt and then try to contort my body to allow me to throw to first base. Righties simply pick the ball up and throw across their bodies. Sure, I played shortstop during the summer when the camp counselors had pickup games on Sunday evenings but there was no way that would have happened if we were in any sort of league.

While it's been a while since I've played organized baseball or softball, it all came back to me this evening as I read this article in the New York Times about Benny Distefano, the last left-handed catcher the play in the major leagues. What's interesting is that unlike the legitimate issues facing a lefty at second, third, or shortstop, the issues facing lefty catchers seem to mostly be derived from that most annoying of rationales: it's just not something that's done. Distefano last caught 20 years ago and there isn't a single lefty catcher in the minor leagues. That doesn't seem quite fair.

On the other hand, three of the last four presidents (including our current commander in chief) are lefties so we southpaws are obviously doing something right...or left.

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