Double trouble for batters Ambidextrous pitcher: Severna Park freshman Amanda Donaldson is a natural left-hander but pitches better with her right arm. She's working on that.

April 14, 1996|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

Amanda Donaldson is already a windmilling 14-year-old whiz as a right-handed softball pitcher for Severna Park High.

She has struck out 25, walked four and has a 2-1 record in four games for the fifth-ranked Falcons. Her fastball has been clocked in the high 50s (miles per hour).

But the big story is she can also pitch left-handed and has done it several times in summer league games.

Once she has time to build up her speed from the left side (currently about 40 mph), Donaldson will certainly command attention from major college recruiters.

"They will come to see her pitch for the novelty, if nothing else," said renowned Brooklyn Park pitching clinic instructor Jack Crandell. "There's only been two or three college girls who have ever pitched with both hands. It means a lot more in softball than baseball to pitch with both hands because in softball you don't have to declare which hand you're going to use before the batter steps in."

The women who have pitched with both hands at the collegiate level have used a specially made six-finger glove that is readily adaptable to either hand.

That is unique, said Crandell, but he wants Donaldson to pitch without any glove at all.

It is perfectly legal in softball and would be stealing a page from a colorful old-time character named Harold "Shifty" Gears who pitched a softball with both hands in the 1940s and didn't use a glove.

Crandell said the major advantage to pitching with both hands is "doubling the number of pitches you have. If Amanda has three pitches from the right side, she would have six because of the different spin a ball has when thrown left-handed."

It seems that it wouldn't take a whole lot of time for Donaldson, a slender 5-foot-6 freshman, to become as effective from the left side as the right side since she is a natural left-hander.

The only things she does in life right-handed are pitch and hit.

Why?

"I envisioned Amanda as a second baseman like myself and my two other girls [Stephanie and Kara]," said her father, Steve. "So I had her throwing right-handed and hitting right. But one day when she was 10 years old and playing for Riviera Beach, they had her on the mound pitching."

That was the beginning of a successful three-year run for Donaldson through American Softball Association summer tournaments with the Maryland Magic. She has been to three straight Nationals with the Magic and once won five games in two days.

Donaldson has a reputation for getting stronger on the mound the more she pitches in one day.

When will Anne Arundel County high school fans see her pitch from the left side?

"I think about pitching left-handed," said Donaldson. "But I don't know if my coach [Wayne Mook] wants me to do it, and I don't want people to think I'm showing off or anything."

Mook said he will use his prized freshman as a left-handed pitcher some time later in the season.

"I could bring her in against a right-handed batter who is trying to slap the ball to right field," said Mook. "Amanda could throw the ball inside and keep her from hitting to right. But right now she is a right-handed pitcher for us. What really impresses us is her hitting."

Donaldson hit .563 with three doubles, two triples and nine RBIs in the first five games.

"There is no doubt that Mandy is good enough to be starting for Severna Park, even if she wasn't a pitcher," said Crandell. "It seems like the better player you are, the better pitcher you will be.

"I've been trying to talk her into pitching left-handed for a while now. I think the thing that needs to be done is to have a major college coach come in and watch Mandy throw with both hands and have the coach decide which hand she could eventually be the best with."

Pub Date: 4/14/96

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