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Old 05-13-2003, 02:07 PM
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Default Ambidextrous Harvard Pitcher Brunnig a Double Threat to Hitters

Ambidextrous Harvard Pitcher Brunnig a Double Threat to Hitters

Princeton, New Jersey, May 13 (Bloomberg) -- Harvard baseball
coach Joe Walsh predicts big things for Matt Brunnig, a freshman
pitcher with the rare ability to throw with either hand.
``Someday he's going to be our No. 1 starter,'' Walsh said,
``and our No. 3 as well.''
Brunnig, a native of Deland, Florida, is called ``Freak'' by
his Harvard teammates. The nickname has nothing to do with his 6-
foot-7, 185-pound frame or his pursuit of a mechanical engineering
degree while he dreams of playing professional baseball.
Although Major League Baseball rosters are dotted with switch-
hitters, switch-pitchers come around about once a century.
The only big-league pitcher in the 1900s to throw with both
hands was Montreal's Greg Harris, who did it against Cincinnati in
September 1995. Harris pitched right-handed to two batters and
lefty to two others while wearing a reversible six-finger glove
that's now in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
``I've learned quite a bit more about Greg Harris than I knew
before this started happening,'' said Brunnig, 19.
The feat is more common at Harvard, where a pitcher named
Jamie Irving displayed ambidextrous skills in 1993. Irving was the
subject of a Sports Illustrated profile, which noted that he beat
Yale on consecutive days -- first as a righty, then as a lefty.
``I can retire now,'' former Yale coach John Stuper told the
magazine, ``because I've seen it all.''
Brunnig went 4-3 with a 3.55 earned-run average for Harvard
this season and pitched the Crimson over Princeton in the middle
game of the best-of-three Ivy League Championship Series last
weekend. But his season ended when Princeton won the series finale
5-2 on Sunday.

In Control

``He's a kid who's going to win games because he throws
strikes,'' said Princeton coach Scott Bradley, a former major-
league catcher. ``He's not somebody who'll stand there and
overpower people.''
Brunnig stands out for more than his height and versatility.
The oldest of six children, he was home-schooled by his mother,
Sarah, from kindergarten through high school. Brunnig scored 1,410
out of 1,600 on his Scholastic Aptitude Test and chose Harvard
over Ivy League-rival Pennsylvania.
A natural right-hander, Brunnig honed his lefty skills at age
6 with help from his father, John, who's a chiropractor. ``He
didn't want me to overly develop my body muscles on one side,''
Brunnig said.
Walsh said Brunnig, who's added two inches and 15 pounds
since arriving at Harvard, throws 87-90 miles per hour from the
right side and about 85 mph from the left. That's a significant
improvement from earlier this season, when he threw in the low
Brunnig pitched primarily as a righty starter this year and
made two relief appearances from the left side. He's broken in
gloves for each hand, and has never switched sides in the middle
of a game.

Majors Unlikely

Chicago Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild, who was an
ambidextrous baseball and hockey player, has thrown batting
practice several times as a lefty in addition to his normal right-
hand delivery. He said the likelihood of Brunnig or any other
pitcher throwing consistently from both sides in the majors is
``Theoretically, it takes so much concentration just to get
good enough to pitch one way,'' Rothschild said. ``To think
somebody could do it both ways is a real reach.''
Before Harris switched hands on the mound eight years ago,
the last pitcher to do it in the majors was Tony Mullane of the
1893 Baltimore Orioles. Major-leaguers Tug McGraw, Cal McLish and
Dave ``Boo'' Ferriss practiced throwing with both hands but never
did it in a game, according to baseball historian Jerome Holtzman.
Brunnig wants to be a big-league pitcher someday, not a
curiosity. In the meantime, he's helping bridge the gap between
businesslike righties and stereotypically flaky left-handers.
``If you're a righty, it must be pretty hard to become a
lefty in your mind,'' Rothschild said. ``I guess you'd start by
tilting your hat the wrong way.''

--Jerry Crasnick
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