LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Steve Butz of Central Catholic High School can make that familiar piece of baseball strategy, bringing in a right-handed batter to face the left-handed pitcher, meaningless.
All Butz needs to do is call timeout, get another glove and throw with his other arm.
The 15-year-old can throw fastballs, curves and forkballs with either arm. He plays outfield and first base left-handed and all other infield positions right-handed.
"Say I'm pitching, and my arm gets tired," Butz said. "I always have my other arm. It's just like have a whole other person there to pitch.
"I personally like pitching left-handed better. I throw harder left-handed, but I have more control right-handed. I can place the ball a lot better."
Butz has two theories about how he started throwing with both hands. He's not too sure about one--that when he threw rocks as a youngster, his three older brothers made him throw with both hands.
The other theory also involves his brothers, Larry, Alan and Mike.
"Whenever they let me play ball with them, they didn't have a left-handed mitt for me, so I couldn't even use my left hand," Butz said. "When I was warming up to pitch and my right arm was kind of tired, I threw it with my left, and it felt kind of good."
Tom Miner, his baseball coach in 1982, saw Butz do that, and urged him to practice throwing both ways.
"I just worked on pitching left-handed then, and by the end of the year my right was as good as my left hand," Butz said. "I didn't really even know I had a left hand until the coach told me I did. I just thought I was a normal righthander like everybody else."
Butz played mostly junior varsity as a freshman this past spring, pitching five innings for the varsity. This summer he is playing with Central Catholic's summer recreation varsity and junior varsity squads and is 2-0 with a save.
"What's amazing is he's very fluid both ways. Some kids can do it and are awkward," said Terry Thompson, Central Catholic's varsity coach.
"I think it's a great weapon. We don't have to make pitching changes. We don't have to make defensive changes. I think it's a great advantage for us."
Butz has had problems with umpires who refuse to give him warm-up pitches if he switches in the middle of an inning. They say he is not a new pitcher and that only replacement pitchers are allowed eight warm-up pitches.
"Some umpires will say, 'Hey, he can't warm up. It's the same person,' " Butz said. "The coach will say, 'He's got to loosen up his arm.' I don't think there's anything stated in the rule book about it."
Butz is hoping his special pitching ability will help earn him a college scholarship. But for now, he just enjoys the reactions to his ambidextrous ability.
"I like seeing the people's faces, and the other coaches," he said. "My family hears a lot of people up in the stands talking about it, too, and they always tell me about it after the game."