In baseball, a switch hitter is a player who bats both right-handed and left-handed, usually right-handed against left-handed pitchers and left-handed against right-handed pitchers.
Usually, right-handed batters hit better against left-handed pitchers and vice versa. Most curveballs break away from batters hitting from the same side as the opposing pitcher, making them harder to hit with the barrel (or "sweet spot") of the bat. Also, the pitcher's release is further from the batter's center of vision. In switch-pitcher Pat Venditte's words, "If I'm pitching right-handed and they're hitting right-handed, it's tougher for them to see. And then, your breaking pitches are going away from their barrel rather than into their barrel." Even so, many switch-hitters do better from one side of the plate than the other. Numerous switch-hitters have achieved a higher batting average on one side, yet have more power from the other. For instance, New York Yankees great Mickey Mantle always considered himself a better right-handed hitter, but hit more home runs left-handed. However, many of Mantle's left-handed home runs were struck at Yankee Stadium, a park notorious for being very friendly to left-handed power hitters due to the short right field porch, and Mantle batted left-handed much more often than right-handed, simply because there have always been more right-handed than left-handed pitchers. Mantle's longest home run, a 565-foot clout in 1953 at Washington's Griffith Stadium, came batting right-handed.
Most switch-hitters have been right-handed throwers, though–among other exceptions–there have been the following players: Lance Berkman, Dave Collins, Doug Dascenzo, Mitch Webster, Wes Parker, Melky Cabrera, Nick Swisher, Justin Smoak, David Segui, Daniel Nava, and J. T. Snow (who, in the final years of his career, hit exclusively left-handed).
Switch-hitting pitchers are relatively rare. They include Mordecai Brown, Norm Charlton, Marvin Rotblatt, Sid Monge, Johnny Vander Meer, J.C. Romero, Kyle Snyder, Wandy Rodriguez, Troy Patton, Tim Dillard, Tyler Johnson, Carlos Zambrano, Dock Ellis, Vida Blue, Anthony Claggett, Kris Medlen, Justin De Fratus, Drew Storen and Kenley Jansen. Joaquín Andújar sometimes hit right-handed against lefties, sometimes left-handed. Tomo Ohka batted left-handed against right-handed pitchers in three games in 2006, but otherwise batted exclusively right-handed. Left-handed reliever Steve Kline was primarily a switch hitter, but batted right-handed against right-handed pitchers several times throughout his career.
Management also had a say in the switch-hitting careers of Bob Gibson and Dwight Gooden. Both Gibson and Gooden—each right-handed, and a fine hitting pitcher—had reached the major leagues as a switch-hitter, and both their teams required them to bat only right-handed, to reduce the possibility of their pitching arms being hit by a pitch.
Pat Venditte, who played college baseball for the Creighton Bluejays, regularly pitched with both arms. Venditte, drafted by the New York Yankees in 2008, was called up to the Oakland Athletics' major-league roster in 2015. When he opposed switch-hitter Ralph Henriquez while in the minor leagues, Venditte switched his modified glove to his left arm. Henriquez then switched to batting left-handed, and a series of changes continued for several minutes. This prompted the PBUC (Professional Baseball Umpire Corporation) to issue rules about switch-pitching: switch-pitchers must choose which way they will begin pitching before they start. Then, batters will select the side of home plate from which they will hit. The batter and the pitcher are each allowed one switch during the plate appearance, after the first pitch is thrown.
In boxing, switch-hitting refers to the ability to change boxing stances mid-fight between an orthodox stance (Right-handed preference straight and left-handed preference jab) and a southpaw stance (Left-handed preference straight and right-handed preference jab).
The term switch hitting in cricket is used to describe a move in which the batsman changes stance during the bowlers run-up.