Vettleson Turning Heads

Another switch-pitcher on the scene




Move over Pat Venditte, there's a new switch-pitcher on the map.

Drew Vettleson from Central Kitsap High in Silverdale, Wash., is an extremely-rare three-way player for the 2010 draft but, because he can pitch with both arms and is also a good hitter, he's more prospect than novelty.

Vettleson just finished his junior year, going 4-2, 1.60 with 45 strikeouts over 38 innings. He threw two no-hitters on the year and also hit .415 with five home runs, leading the Central Kitsap Cougars to a 16-6 record and a trip to the Class 4A state playoffs, where they lost to Lake Washington High. The season earned Vettleson Gatorade's Washington Player of the Year honors, and now the 6-foot-1, 185-pound Oregon State recruit is spending his summer crisscrossing the country as part of the intense showcase circuit.

He was in Minneapolis for the Perfect Game National Showcase June 11-14, then he headed to USA Baseball's Tournament of Stars in Cary, N.C. His schedule will take him to Mariner Cup tryouts in Seattle, the Area Code games in Long Beach, Baseball Northwest's Prospect Games in the Portland, Ore., area and then finally down to Jupiter, Fla., for the World Wood Bat Championships in October.

"Going to all these tournaments and playing with the best competition is something special," Vettleson said. "I'm glad I have the opportunity to do all these things."

It's not a shocker he was happy to be there. Central Kitsap coach Bill Baxter said Vettleson is always in a good mood.

"He's just a happy-go-lucky kid," Baxter said. "He's not just all about baseball, he's involved with other stuff at school and he's a nice kid that gets along with everyone. We call him Howdy Doody because he's always smiling."

How It All Began

Vettleson said he's been throwing with both arms for as long as he can remember.

"My mom had a lefthanded glove and my dad's righthanded," Vettleson explained. "We played a lot of slow pitch growing up, so whichever one I was with, I'd just grab that glove and it just stuck."

The other schools in his district all know Vettleson's story now, but he enjoyed making opponents do a double-take at an earlier age.

"Around the age of 10, I was just like, 'Wow, I have something special. I can do this and no one else can,'" Vettleson said. "In Little League, you're only allowed to throw three innings, but I could throw three innings with my right arm and then three with my left. It was always fun seeing the reaction of the other team when I'd switch. At first they'd just be like, 'New pitcher!' and then they'd go, 'Wait, that's the same pitcher . . . but he's throwing with the other arm!'"

Vettleson only threw righthanded at the event, which he said is typical. His right arm is dominant and his left arm essentially serves as an extremely-valuable backup option. While Vettleson throws with both arms and bats lefthanded, he does everything else—writing, eating, etc.—strictly righthanded.

He doesn't have a special glove like Venditte, the other prominent ambidextrous pitcher and a reliever in the Yankees system. Instead, Vettleson keeps an extra glove behind the mound, if the umpire allows it. Sometimes he switches back and fourth depending on the batter, while other times he'll pitch an entire game righthanded or an entire game lefthanded.

"Mostly I'll pitch righthanded," he said. "But I'll go lefthanded to eat some innings and save my arm."
 
In Minneapolis, Vettleson sat 88-90 mph with his fastball and mixed in a good, 79 mph breaking ball that he can throw for strikes. He located everything to both sides of the plate and showed good poise and polish for a high school pitcher—especially one that has twice as many things to work on.

Despite his freakish talents on the mound, Vettleson might be even better as a hitter. He's not a switch-hitter but has a smooth and powerful lefthanded stroke. He's patient at the plate and was impressive during his batting practice session at the Metrodome.

"I think he is, without a doubt," Central Kitsap coach Bill Baxter said. "When he's on, he's on a tear. I know he's on this summer. He stopped in yesterday to pick up a jersey for the Gatorade Player of the Year thing and told me he has seven home run in his first 11 summer league games. When he gets his pitch, he just pulls it and it's gone, but he can put the ball up the middle and the other way, too. Sometimes he has a tendency to drop his back shoulder and pop up that outside pitch, but he can drive it too. He hit a ball in our playoffs that was outside a little bit and he hit it over the center field fence, 450 feet."

Vettleson is one player that stood out at Perfect Game's National Showcase in Minneapolis June 11-14. Click here for 25 other players that made an impression.