James Clemens Baseball Player Has Unique Talent- Ambidextrous Allows Him To Throw With Either Arm
MADISON- The term “switch hitter” is very common in baseball as batters take to hitting from both sides of the plate. For pitching, having the ability to throw with both arms is a novelty that only a few have the unique athletic talents.
James Clemens senior baseball player Joe Lach just happens to be among the unique few that are ambidextrous- the ability to use the right and left hands equally well.
“It all started when I was five years old. I was stubborn. I was right-handed, but didn’t trust myself as I caught the baseball with my right hand and threw with my left,” explained Lach. “I kept working my right hand with my dad and by age 10 both were developed almost equally. At age 12, my dad let me play as I wanted as having the ability to throw with both hands gives me more playing time.”
Today, the 5-foot-11, 145-pound Lach is the starting left fielder for the Jets, pitches and also plays shortstop when needed. In the infield, he’s a right-hander. In the outfield and when he takes to the mound for his turn to pitch for the Jets, Lach changes gloves and becomes a southpaw member of the team’s pitching staff. In all, he carries four gloves to each game- infield glove, outfield glove, pitching glove and a customized made glove from 44 Gloves that is designed to fit both hands.
By rule, a pitcher begins against a batter throwing with one arm, they are unable to switch to the other arm until a new batter.
Lach has yet to switch while pitching for the Jets, but has done so numerous times during summer league play. It’s a sight opposing teams can’t seem to grasp and Lach said he chuckles when he sees his opponents’ reaction.
The son of Steve and Michelle Lach, the student-athlete carries a 4.8 grade point average, which puts him among the top 30 among his senior class. He’s looking to attend a prestigious college specializing in mechanical engineering. Those schools include Purdue, Penn State, Kansas, Washington and Arizona.
Johnny Johnson, James Clemens head coach, said Lach could be a college baseball prospect, but is leaning towards academics and not pursuing playing at the next level. He added, “Joe is an outstanding kid and always does the right thing. He’s very mature and helps others on the team. He’s just an outstanding teammate. We’ve discussed him pitching from both sides, but have not actually let him do so during a game. Maybe he’ll do so sometime later in the season.”
Lach is 1-0 through 16-2/3 innings on the mound with a 1.26 ERA in six games. Opponents have only batted .157 against him. At the plate on the offensive side of the game. He’s batting .375 with a .500 on base percentage.
Lach and his family, including three sisters, two of which are twins, moved to Madison from California just prior to Lach’s sophomore season. When the COVID pandemic hit in 2020, his baseball came to end. This fall, he was unable to work out with the team and got a late start in pre-season practice due to the fact he and his family have been heavily quarantined because of his mother who has a neurological condition that affects her autoimmune system. She was sick for a few years and still has neurological signatures, but most of her symptoms went into remission when the twins were born in 2009. The major concern is any type of illness, like COVID-19, could cause those symptoms to permanently return.
“I spoke with my parents about continuing to play baseball and my father decided to rent an apartment for us to reside so I could quarantine from my mother and still play baseball,” said Lach. “I FaceTime with my mother about five times a week and she attends my games, but watches from the road near the baseball field. It’s been three months since I’ve actually hugged my mother.”
On pitchers’ mound, Lach has been clocked at 87 miles per hour left-handed and 82 miles per hour from the right side. He’s what Johnson considers a good solid pitcher for the Jets’ rotation. He’s been one of the top pitchers on the team since arriving for his sophomore season and could easily pitch in college should he choose to do so.
Away from the baseball diamond, Lach has the talents to play piano. He’s has an estimated 1,000 hours of practice and basically taught himself to play by watching You Tube videos. He does not read music, but plays by ear.
His father is in the U.S. Air Force and works for Missile Defense Agency while his mother handles human resources for a company that is a space contractor. The family transferred here from a city just outside Los Angeles and the change from big city to small community life has been eye-opening, but a good change for the entire family’s current situation. Last fall Lach would workout at home and throw to his father. Lack feels his hard work has paid off.
“I thank Coach Johnson as he allows me to be flexible and has been great to work with,” said Lach. “As for my using both arms in baseball, one good thing is arm pain is a thing of the past as using both arms allows me to rest each arm. My trust in my being a lefty.”