Position biases are evident, but are they really necessary?
Looking around the diamond, coaches see right-handers as capable of playing every single spot. The same cannot be said for lefties.
“Yes, southpaws are capable on the mound and in the field; they just about exclusively play first base and the corner outfield spots,” Plymouth (Massachusetts) youth softball coach Sam Anderson said. “Not everyone thinks that should be the case, however.
“I kind of understand it at the elite levels, but at the same time, here it makes no sense,” she added. “I want the best people playing the best positions. Handedness shouldn’t come into play there.”
Coaching softball at a younger level, Anderson notes she only has a few “athletes” on her team every season. With certain positions being more crucial than others, she looks for the best players at each and every position and gives the top players a chance to see how they can handle tougher positions, regardless of handedness.
Of course, the main argument/conventional logic against lefties playing the infield is because they have a disadvantage throwing to bases and it takes them longer to pivot. Anderson just does not think an advantage means someone is necessarily better.
“We play some teams where you see kids struggle a little bit defensively at the tougher spots like shortstop, third base and behind the plate,” Anderson said. “Sometimes, you have to wonder if they’d be better off giving a lefty a shot.
“Sometimes, it’s tough because these kids don’t have as much experience with it growing up — because of the bias — but if you start them young, they’ll be a lot better at it,” she added. “Inexperience is oft the issue with it more than anything.”
If coaches continue sticking to the traditional mindset, Anderson said at a minimum, she cannot understand why left-handed catchers are so rare.
“I know in the big leagues, pop times really aren’t that different for a right-handed catcher throwing to second base and throwing to third base with a right-handed batter up,” she said. “A lefty could still throw runners out with a lefty up, but in youth ball, it really doesn’t matter too much.
“You just want someone back there who can actually catch a baseball, is willing to sacrifice the body, et cetera. At higher levels too, it’s definitely a plus if they call a good game, but we’re not quite there yet.”
Anderson reiterated that she does not put left-handers in the infield solely for the sake to break conventional wisdom. In fact, she has had seasons without needing to use lefties in the infield.
“If you can skate by without it, so be it,” Anderson said. “Obviously it’s not a necessity, nor is it completely useless. It’s a little confusing why more coaches don’t do it.
“Some softball and baseball people are still stuck in the stone age. It’s like the whole analytics thing all over again. I think we’ll see more of it at the lower levels in years to come — when people come to their senses.”