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HIGH SCHOOL HARDBALL: County's profusion of lefties continues

 

 

Over the years, I’ve heard more than one friend tell me only half-jokingly about how he planned to put a baseball in his infant son’s left hand as soon as he was able to grip one.

See, the idea is that left-handed pitching is such a rare and coveted commodity that any southpaw who shows any sort of potential will at least get a legitimate look from professional baseball scouts.

And once he gets his foot in the door, that lefty will always have a shot to catch on in some big-league or minor-league organization.

It explains why guys like Bruce Chen continue to find work despite rather pedestrian career numbers.

It explains why others like Jesse Orosco and Terry Mulholland had major league careers well into their 40s.

And it explains why Jamie Moyer is apparently considering a comeback next year when he recovers from Tommy John (the poster child for left-handed opportunity) surgery — when he turns 50.

So, if left-handed pitching is so hard to find, where on earth is seemingly every Gwinnett County high school team coming up with all these port-siders this season?

This thought struck me as I watched North Gwinnett lefty Michael Aker throw six quality innings before getting a no decision in the Bulldogs’ extra-inning loss at Duluth last Friday.

In fact, in the four games I’ve covered so far this season, three of them have had at least one left-handed starter, including two lefty-lefty matchups.

That got me curious enough to start looking at rosters of county teams, and you can literally count on one hand (right or left) the teams with at least one left-handed pitcher listed.

In fact, many county teams have several of them.

Collins Hill has as many as six different southpaw options. So does Hebron Christian. Brookwood has four of them. Buford has three. Duluth trots out two different left-handers to the mound each week in its starting rotation.

The list is seemingly endless.

And these left-handers aren’t just taking up space on a roster. They’re succeeding.

Of the 18 pitchers with at least eight innings pitched and an ERA under 2.00 as of last Friday, no fewer than seven of them are lefties.

Similarly, the top two among the county’s wins leaders and eight of the 20 county pitchers with at least two wins are lefties, while exactly half of the county’s top 12 strikeout leaders are southpaws.

This is not really a new trend, either.

When Mill Creek right-hander and current Georgia Tech freshman Matthew Grimes was named the Daily Post’s Pitcher of the Year last spring, it broke a string of seven straight lefties to win that award.

Many of those were big names like Devin Stanton and Grayson Garvin, who are now at big-time Division I college programs, and Nathan Moreau and Justin Earls, who are pitching in minor-league ball.

That’s not even including Brookwood’s Chase Hawkins, who was named the Daily Post’s Player of the Year in 2008 opposite Garvin, and is now a midweek starter at Georgia.

And the scary part is, it doesn’t look like the left-handed trend will end anytime soon.

While there are several seniors among the current corps of port-siders — like Georgia signee Jared Walsh of Peachtree Ridge, Division I prospect Sam Clay of Buford and John Clark of Duluth — many others, such as Duluth’s Zack Erwin and Hebron’s Mason Felt are underclassmen.

I don’t know if the rest of Georgia high school baseball is experiencing the same southpaw boom, or if it’s something in Gwinnett County’s water supply.

But with as many quality left-handed arms to complement an equally strong group of right-handers, it would seem to bode well for those local teams that are still in the running for a state championship once the postseason begins next month.