12/18/2007 11:01 AM ET
Berkman: My entry to switch-hitting
My dad got me started on switch-hitting. I was about six years old or so. I was a natural right-handed hitter, but he started throwing to me and asked me to try hitting left-handed.
I was a right-handed hitter but I threw left-handed, which is an unusual combination. There aren't too many guys in the big leagues who throw left-handed and hit right-handed. Looking back, I don't think my dad was necessarily setting me up for a career in the big leagues, but he wanted to see if I could hit from the left side, too.
I remember my dad taking me out in the backyard that first time and how awkward it felt batting left-handed that first time. My first couple of years in Little League, my dad made me switch off between left- and right-handed stances. My teammates would always want me to hit right-handed because I was better from that side of the plate. It took me a while to feel comfortable batting from the left side.
I think I'm naturally ambidextrous. It took me a little while to feel comfortable batting left-handed, but elsewhere I haven't had any problems. I throw left-handed, but I write right-handed. I shoot a rifle with my left, but I shoot a pistol with my right. I also kick with my right foot. It really doesn't make any sense to me.
My dad set up a net in the garage for me so I could hit off a tee left-handed. It allowed me to get a lot of swings in from the opposite side. He even set up a tire drill for me that helped develop my power from that side.
Now, I'm definitely better when I bat left-handed. If you check out the statistics, they will agree with me. I also tend to get a lot more at-bats left-handed too. Much of it is because so many pitchers are right-handed. In my lifetime, I've probably had four times as many at-bats left-handed than the other way.
When I think of the truly great switch-hitters in the game, my first thought goes to Chipper Jones. There's also Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira. There are a lot of guys in this league who can switch-hit, but very few of them can switch hit for power. Those are the guys I like to watch.
Lance Berkman, who makes his year-round home in Houston, is a four-time All-Star. He hit 34 homers and drove in 104 runs, the fifth time he has eclipsed the 100-RBI mark, for the Astros in 2007. On a trivial note, Berkman has hit a home run on Sept. 21 each of the last seven seasons.