Via Tom Maloney -
When Canada begins play in the World Baseball Classic on Friday, it will field a roster featuring 13 players who throw right-handed and bat left-handed.
That number compares with two Americans, one Mexican and three Italians who throw right and bat left – and among the last, pitcher John Mariotti grew up in Woodbridge, Ont.
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And the anomaly isn’t limited to the WBC: Last year, Baseball Canada showed 11 Canadian position players on Major League rosters and, of those, six hit left-handed and one was a switch-hitter.
The answer, experts believe, is that most quintessentially Canadian pastime – hockey.
“Most of the conversation revolves around the dominant hand and its position on the bat and/or hockey stick,” says Gord Ash, former general manager of the Blue Jays and now assistant GM with the Milwaukee Brewers.
“There is constant debate on the role of the top hand or bottom hand as it relates to power.”
Most naturally right-handed tykes starting out in hockey will hold the stick with the left arm extended down the shaft and with the right hand at the top, under the tape. The majority of sticks sold in Canada are left-handed. When youngsters pick up a baseball bat, it feels natural to keep the left hand on top of the right hand and, thus, hit left-handed. The right hand goes to the nob.
“There are more left-handed shooters,” says Canadian slugger Justin Morneau. “Your dominant hand is on the top end of your stick, so you shoot that way and you hit that way.”
When I was a little kid, and didn’t know much, I always thought it made sense for right-handed throwers to bat left, like Roger Maris and Graig Nettles, if they wanted to be a power hitter, thinking that it made sense to have your stronger arm on the bottom of the bat.
But, as I got older, rather than arm strength, I now believe it’s all about eye dominance in terms of picking the best side of the plate to hit from…
…and hockey has nothing to do with it.