JUPITER, Fla. – On his Perfect Game player profile, Ryan Perez’s primary position is listed as “BHP.” That’s BHP as in “both-handed pitcher.” It’s a position also sometimes referred to as “switch-pitcher.”
Regardless of which handle is attached to Perez, there is no question he’s a bit of an anomaly. But he’s also a nationally recognized top-275 prospect (class of 2012) who hopes to one day to go places no other ambidextrous pitcher has gone before.
“I’ll try to go as far with this as I can,” Perez said Oct. 21 while in attendance at the PG WWBA World Championship as a member of Coach John Sarna’s Chicago Scouts Association squad.
Perez is a 6-foot, 185-pound senior at Westminster Christian High School in Hampshire, Ill., whose father, Juan Perez, made the decision to develop his son into an ambidextrous thrower as soon as the youngster was old enough to pick up a ball.
“I was the baby out of six kids and my dad never got the natural lefty; I was sort of like the last hope,” Perez said. “He trained me to start throwing left-handed and then he started thinking, ‘Well, what if this doesn’t work?’ so he also developed my right arm.”
Perez said that by the time he was 5 years old, throwing and catching the ball with both hands felt completely natural to him, and doesn’t feel any more comfortable throwing from one side as opposed to the other. When he’s not pitching for his high school team, he’s been known to play third base as a right-handed thrower and first base as a left-hander.
On occasion, Perez will switch his pitching arm from batter-to-batter to take advantage of the right-lefty percentages, but that’s not his normal method of operation.
“I usually go a couple of innings one way and then switch to the other. It seems to be more effective,” he said. “That keeps my velocity up there better and helps with my command.”
During his development, Perez worked tirelessly to improve his strength in both arms. He would field buckets of ground balls and fly balls using both hands (four total buckets) then pitch three buckets of balls with each arm (total of six).
There have been other ambidextrous pitchers through the years, of course, including Pat Venditte of Omaha, a former Creighton standout who the New York Yankees selected in the 20th round of the 2008 draft. Venditte spent the 2011 season with Trenton in the Double-A Eastern League and is the only ambidextrous pitcher associated with Major League Baseball.
Sarna, Perez’s coach with the Chicago Scouts Association team, said Perez has been in touch with Venditte.
“He’s talked to Pat and they’ve started a communication, so (he knows) there is precedent,” Sarna said. “There are a lot of people wondering if that can continue and I whole-heartedly believe it can because of what I’ve seen with (Perez’s) progression from his freshman year in high school to where he is now. It’s not like it’s been up-and-down – it’s been a steady rise and hopefully that continues.”
It is Perez’s consistency throwing from both sides that is drawing scout’s interest. His fastball tops out in the 91-92 mph range from the right side and in the 88-89 range when throwing left-handed. He can also throw a curveball, cut fastball and change-up with both arms, adding to his already impressive arsenal.
“His numbers have been consistent this whole summer and continuing into the fall, so hopefully that progresses,” Sarna said. “What I have heard in the past with ambidextrous guys is there are inconsistencies, where with him he’s been (very consistent).”
According to an April 5 report in the Chicago Sun Times, Perez – pitching for his high school team – threw a complete game no-hitter left-handed, then came back later in the day and threw four innings of two-hit, shutout relief right-handed.
A Perfect Game scouting report following June’s PG National Showcase noted that Perez has “similar deliveries with both arms, a big leg raise (and) full back turn … and has an idea how to pitch. Unique talent; has to be evaluated with an open mind.”
Perez didn’t make his first scheduled start at the PG WWBA World Championship after feeling some tightness in his right arm while warming up. Sarna said it was nothing serious and no cause for alarm.
“Ryan is fine,” Sarna wrote in an email this week. “He had never experienced any discomfort while throwing, so we shut him down just to be cautious. In Ryan’s best interest, I allowed him to throw on Sunday with his left hand, which he did … and (he) made some great pitches in his two innings of work.”
Perez’s appearance at the WWBA World Championship was his third WWBA tournament – he also played in the 2010 PG WWBA Underclass World Championship and the 2011 PG WWBA 2011 Grads or 18u National Championship – and this past summer attended the prestigious Perfect Game National Showcase and also played in the Area Code Games.
“It’s a lot of fun, playing against the top players in the nation,” Perez said of his PG experiences. “The competition is great and I love pitching against these types of players.”
Perez has not made a college commitment and his PG player profile indicates his interest only in handful of Illinois and Iowa junior colleges. His biggest interest just might be in the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft in June.
“We’ve been just looking kind of local, around Illinois, just staying kind of close to home,” Perez said. “And depending on how the draft goes, I might get picked by a team and (sign) with them – it just depends on if the money’s right and what else is going on.”
He is steadfast in his desire to remain a “both-hander” or “switch-pitcher” where ever he pitches after high school.
“It gives a lot of the scouts an option,” Perez said. “I can start or close both ways and do basically whatever they want.”