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Thursday, March 07, 2013

Globe and Mail: Canadian baseball’s lefty leanings linked to national game

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.
...
What gives?

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.

Boileryard Posted: March 07, 2013 at 11:57 PM | 17 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: hockey, wbc

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   1. Rancischley Leweschquens (Tim Wallach was my Hero) Posted: March 08, 2013 at 08:02 AM (#4383823)
Interesting, but is hockey really explaining everything?

Like many other of my fellow Canadians, I throw right-handed and bat left-handed. I also golf left-handed. Heck, I even eat with my left hand and play guitar left-handed despite the fact that I write with my right hand and do everything else with my right hand. For example, I played violin for years as a kid and teen, right-handed (so yes, I know how to do chords with both hands on a string instrument).

But I've never played hockey in my life, except in the street as a kid (I don't even know how to skate. Shame on me). True, I was left-handed then too, but I don't think I've nearly played enough to have had an adaptative response from it.




   2. Rants Mulliniks Posted: March 08, 2013 at 08:09 AM (#4383826)
I don't see how hockey has anything to do with it either. Is there even any quantifiable advantage to shooting left in hockey? If anything, it would make more sense for RH baseball players to be pushed towards batting left.
   3. JE (Jason) Posted: March 08, 2013 at 08:23 AM (#4383834)
When I started following the NHL back in the late 70s, I could not understand why so many players were shooting left. It was in stark contrast to my floor hockey league in Brooklyn, where nearly everyone shot right-handed.
   4. Rancischley Leweschquens (Tim Wallach was my Hero) Posted: March 08, 2013 at 08:35 AM (#4383845)
When I started following the NHL back in the late 70s, I could not understand why so many players were shooting left. It was in stark contrast to my floor hockey league in Brooklyn, where nearly everyone shot right-handed.

When the Soviets met the Canadians in the early 1970s, every Russian player was right-handed. And most Canadians were left-handed.

When I was in high school, they tried to introduce field hockey and bought a whole bunch of equipment. Most of us were really eager to adopt this new game, but when we pick up the sticks, most of us were wondering why there were absolutely no left-handed stick. And so we tried to play but it never caught. It was too unnatural for most of us.

Final thought: left-handedness is one of the very few things French and English Canadians share (with love of hockey and Tim Horton's).

   5. Random Transaction Generator Posted: March 08, 2013 at 09:20 AM (#4383886)
When the Soviets met the Canadians in the early 1970s, every Russian player was right-handed. And most Canadians were left-handed.


Which is VERY interesting because if you look at the Rendez-vous 1987 USSR team roster, all but two of the non-goalies are LEFT-handed shots.

That's a pretty dramatic turn around.
   6. Rancischley Leweschquens (Tim Wallach was my Hero) Posted: March 08, 2013 at 09:51 AM (#4383913)
Which is VERY interesting because if you look at the Rendez-vous 1987 USSR team roster, all but two of the non-goalies are LEFT-handed shots.

My bad. There were actually both left-handed (2/3) and right-handed (1/3) players on the Russian roster back in 1972.
I made two basics mistakes here:
1) Once, I heard an old player who played against the Russians in 1972 say that all the Russians were shooting from the same hand. And I believed him and did not check the info.
2) I asumed for some unknown reasons they were all shooting right.
   7. FrankM Posted: March 08, 2013 at 10:18 AM (#4383925)
Here in Canada, right-handed people who play hockey generally shoot left (which means the right hand holds the stick at the top with the left hand further down) and vice-versa for left handed people. It always seemed natural to me, and I was surprised to find out a couple of years ago that Americans do the opposite. Strange. Damned if I know which is more advantageous in playing the game.
   8. Matthew E Posted: March 08, 2013 at 10:44 AM (#4383952)
I don't even think it's because of hockey: I played hardly any hockey of any kind growing up, but I'm another bat-left/throw-right guy. And I'm also lefty with a golf club or hockey stick. But why then?
   9. UnclePab Posted: March 08, 2013 at 10:52 AM (#4383961)
Here in Canada, right-handed people who play hockey generally shoot left (which means the right hand holds the stick at the top with the left hand further down) and vice-versa for left handed people. It always seemed natural to me, and I was surprised to find out a couple of years ago that Americans do the opposite. Strange. Damned if I know which is more advantageous in playing the game.

I remember during the last winter Olympics there was discussion about this during a USA v Canada hockey game. It seems having the dominant hand on top (like most Canadian hockey players) allows for more control, while having the dominant hand on bottom (like most American hockey players) produces more power. I have no idea if that's true, but it sounds believable.
   10. Juan Uribe Marching and Chowder Society Posted: March 08, 2013 at 10:59 AM (#4383970)
Matthew's and Tim's experiences clearly invalidate the entire hypothesis here.
   11. Juan Uribe Marching and Chowder Society Posted: March 08, 2013 at 11:21 AM (#4383996)
Matthew's and Tim's experiences clearly invalidate the entire hypothesis here.
   12. BrianBrianson Posted: March 08, 2013 at 11:24 AM (#4383998)
Hockey requires ice, which can be hard to find if you're from Victoria or Toronto or something. But I have a hard trouble believing anyone raised in Canada didn't play a lot of street hockey. FWIW, I shoot left, bat switch, and do everything else right. So ... maybe?
   13. Ron J2 Posted: March 08, 2013 at 11:28 AM (#4384004)
#2 There's no advantage to shooting left. But far more right-handed Canadians shoot left in hockey than Americans. I think it's just as simple as the curve on the first stick you get. And back in my youth Canadian Tire carried very few right-handed sticks. I didn't have anything to do with the purchase of my first stick. I was happy to get one as a Christmas gift and just started to shoot left. (obsessively. I spent hours learning to shoot)

I know hockey is cited as the reason that there is a much higher percentage of left-handed golfers in Canada than in the US. Again plenty of exceptions. After all, left-handed golfing equipment isn't always available.

I'm right-handed. Bat right, shoot left, golf right and I'm very left footed.

Incidentally #9 dunno about the theory, but the top power shots of my youth (in particular the Hull brothers) shot left.
   14. Non-Youkilidian Geometry Posted: March 08, 2013 at 12:12 PM (#4384046)
My understanding -- which may well be incorrect -- was always so many right-handed Canadian kids are taught to shoot left because the perception is that you have better stickhandling control with your dominant (right) hand holding the end of the stick. I grew up shooting right I think mainly because my dad shot right. (I also do everything else -- bat, throw, etc. -- right handed).
But I have a hard trouble believing anyone raised in Canada didn't play a lot of street hockey.

Definitely -- I grew up in Vancouver and almost never got to play ice hockey as a kid. Unless you played in an organized hockey league -- which nobody I knew did -- the only way to get ice time for shinny was during freak cold snaps every few years when the ponds would freeze. But we played street hockey all the time, often in the lacrosse box in the local park, which was essentially like a paved hockey rink (box lacrosse was the dominant form of lacrosse in western Canada at the time -- I never even heard of anyone playing field lacrosse until I moved east).
   15. Jim Wisinski Posted: March 08, 2013 at 02:19 PM (#4384202)
I have, as long as I can remember, thrown a frisbees/golf discs left-handed for a normal backhand throw. Can't throw any other way left-handed though. I generally think of myself as being pretty right-hand dominant though I guess I'm not entirely since people have commented on certain things I do, like being able to use a calculator left-handed with no problem, as being somewhat unusual. I also open bottles and jars left-handed and am not completely terrible at left-handed tennis. Can't bat or throw a ball lefty at all though and lefty hand-writing is utterly atrocious.

I also play Guitar Hero "left-handed" though I maintain that for anyone who isn't a real guitar player it's far more natural and intuitive to have your dominant hand be the one doing the difficult stuff (switching between different buttons) instead of just repeatedly strumming.
   16. Greg K Posted: March 08, 2013 at 05:20 PM (#4384454)
Here in Canada, right-handed people who play hockey generally shoot left (which means the right hand holds the stick at the top with the left hand further down) and vice-versa for left handed people. It always seemed natural to me, and I was surprised to find out a couple of years ago that Americans do the opposite. Strange. Damned if I know which is more advantageous in playing the game.


This may explain me. I'm the rare left-throw, bat-right kind of guy. Though I threw baseballs well before I ever played hockey.

EDIT: Also double up on being a Canadian (Toronto) who has never played hockey on ice, but played a ton on the street as a kid. It's odd to think yelling "car!" and moving the net isn't something everyone is familiar with in their lives.
   17. Walt Davis Posted: March 08, 2013 at 06:44 PM (#4384577)
I played street hockey before I played baseball and I always shot left. It wasn't the curve of the stick cuz I'm old enough that the "defensemen" sticks sold were still flat-bladed (boy was that dumb). It wasn't my favorite players -- Mikita and Magnuson both shot righty. Maybe I was emulating a friend ... but I just remember it feeling natural.

I batter righty in baseball because (a) people told me as a righty that's that I should do; (b) we never had enough players so RF was always out; (c) Ernie Banks -- he wasn't really my favorite but he was the local god even in the early 70s. I didn't remember even trying to bat lefty until college and ... well, no power but I've got a much smoother, line drive-y swing batting lefty. In part because of I loved hockey more than baseball and certainly played more street/floor hockey than I did baseball probably until I was 14 or so, I can roll the left wrist through much better than the right.

There may be no reason that Canadian kids shoot lefty rather than righty but I can easily believe that if you grow up shooting lefty and playing a lot more hockey than baseball, you should probably bat lefty.

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