General : : Crack The Bat
Thursday, January 21, 2010

Max Homick is an Ambidextrous Gem

Jim Ecker        
Max Homick gets strange looks on a baseball field sometimes. Opponents aren't sure what they've just seen. Does he have a twin brother? Are they seeing double? Is it an optical illusion?
That's what happens when you pitch with your left hand, then occasionally move to third base and throw with your right hand.
"They don't believe it at first," Homick told Perfect Game USA. "I start seeing these weird looks. After the game they'll be like, 'Did you just throw with both hands?' And I say, 'Yeah, I did.' Everyone just thinks it's crazy. Everyone is like, 'Man, I wish I could do that.'"
Few people can. And few people can do it as well as Homick.
"Not like this," said Mike Spiers, who coaches Homick on the ABD Bulldogs in California. "It's pretty interesting."
Homick, 17, is a junior at Rancho Bernardo High School in San Diego, where he carries a 3.4 GPA. He's been clocked in the low 90s as a left-handed pitcher, and can fire the ball across the diamond as a right-handed third baseman. He played an inning at shortstop in the California Underclass Showcase last weekend (as a right-hander) and also plays first base and the outfield (as a left-hander).
Homick has invested in a lot of gloves.
"I have quite a few," he said. "I've got an outfielder's glove, a first-base glove, a pitching glove, but then I also have a right-handed infielder's glove."
Four gloves? "Yes, four," he confirmed.
Homick has been athletic, and ambidextrous, almost since the day he was born on June 10, 1992. When he was 18 months old, he'd shoot baskets at little hoops, over and over, sometimes with his left hand, sometimes with his right. It was the same with little footballs.
"It would always mess us up," his mother, Diva, said with a laugh. "We'd never know if he was going to throw with his left hand or his right."
Homick is not a curiousity act. He's a talented, legitimate baseball player who hit .404 as a sophomore in high school last year. He's ranked 27th in the nation in the Class of 2011 by Perfect Game USA and he's already accepted a scholarship from the University of San Diego in his home town.
"They see me as a two-way guy in college," he said. "I'll play first base and pitch. We really haven't talked much about the right-hand thing. If that pops up in the future, I'd be fine with that."
Homick began playing baseball when he was 11. The question was: Which hand?
"My dad, when he played, he used to be a catcher, and so I really wanted to be a catcher," he said. "So when I first started learning how to play, I always played right-handed, but I hit left-handed."
There's more to the story, of course.
"I threw a football left-handed," Homick continued, "and so when the baseball season was over, my dad had me throw a baseball left-handed and I threw it just as good."
His father, Bob Homick, played at Cal Poly SLO.
Little League was interesting for Max. He'd pitch, play first base and the outfield as a left-hander, but he'd catch, play third base and shortstop as a right-hander. His team got two talented guys for the price of one.
"I eat right-handed, I write right-handed, but I always played hockey left-handed," he said. "It's like a combination of everything I do. I'm not quite sure of anyone who can do that."
Pat Venditte comes close. Venditte, 24, was a switch-pitcher at Creighton University a few years ago, sometimes throwing with his left hand and sometimes with his right. And he was good, too, good enough to be selected in the 20th round of the 2008 major league draft by the New York Yankees. He was a switch-pitcher in the low minors last year for the Yanks, which made for an interesting situation when he faced a switch-hitter. They had to implement a new rule to prevent the occasion from becoming an Abbott & Costello routine.
Homick is tempted to try switch-pitching in a game. He's fooled around as a right-handed pitcher with friends at the park, but nothing serious. Not yet, anyway.
"Next summer, that definitely might happen," he said. "I definitely couldn't hit low 90s as a right-hander. I think I could, if I just started right now, hit low to mid-80s. But if I worked on it and strengthened it a little more I'm sure I could get it up there."
He sounded serious.
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