The Ambidextrous Ace


Opposing batters look at him like he’s from another planet, but for Nathan Van Lagen, it feels completely normal.

The 16-year-old pitcher has an arsenal that only eight players have had in the history of Major League Baseball: the ability to throw a baseball hard with either hand.

“Ever since I was little, whatever glove I could get my hands on, that’s which hand I would throw that day,” Van Lagen told Alberta Dugout Stories: The Podcast.

“I don’t know – sometimes I would be left and sometimes I would be right – whichever worked.”

While his approach is more refined now, Van Lagen’s skills were put on full display during the 2023 Baseball Alberta Elite League provincial playoffs, where Van Lagen was suiting up for Neutral Hills Academy from Consort.

While the Wranglers weren’t able to capture the title, their young hurler captured the attention of onlookers with his unique approach.

Like recent ambidextrous players Anthony Siegler and Jurrangelo Cijntje before him, Van Lagen has enjoyed his moment of social media virality after photos circulated online.

However, he’s hoping this isn’t the last we hear of him as he continues his baseball journey.


Originally from Nobleford, Van Lagen and his family moved to Altario in 2014 when his dad was named principal of the local school.

Kevin remembers how his son was always using both arms when throwing balls.

“At first, we thought it was a phase that he would grow out of,” he told Alberta Dugout Stories via Instagram Messenger.

“At one point, we did think he was going to just use his left arm to throw, as that’s what he mostly used when he began playing 11U ball.”

However, the youngster would still use both arms while he was playing catch with his dad or throwing the ball around with his buddies.

Not wanting to put limits on his son, Kevin says it ultimately boiled down to which glove was available on any given day.

A year or so later, Nathan remembers getting a right-handed glove as a birthday present, so he focused on pitching left-handed and throwing right-handed while he was playing other positions.

Having seen former Major Leaguer Pat Venditte switch-pitch, the Van Lagens looked to get their son an ambidextrous glove.

However, efforts on that front took some time.

“We tried to buy one from an online company, but they kept sending us catcher’s mitts,” Kevin said.

“Eventually, they sent us a massive glove that is too big for adults, so we just settled on buying him both a left and right glove as he grew up.”


It wasn’t until Nathan joined Neutral Hills Academy over the last year where the decision was made to try developing him into an ambidextrous pitcher.

Early on, he leaned on his fastball when he was pitching right-handed, while his off-speed pitches were more in use from the left side.

While he aims to improve that repertoire, Van Lagen is also learning to be more situational when it comes to when he makes the switch.

He normally stays righty vs. righty and lefty vs. lefty, unless there’s a runner on-base that might be a threat to steal.

Even then, Van Lagen is still keeping opponents on their heels.

“When you’re warming up, you can hear it from the other team’s bench about, ‘What is going on?’ and ‘What is happening?’” he laughed.

“When they face you, they still don’t know what to expect, because it’s different from what the last guy faced.”

It’s a game-plan he sticks with, as he doesn’t want to leave his fielders guessing either.

As the season went on, Van Lagen felt his performance – as well as the team’s – continued to improve, so he went in with the mindset of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

He became more confident in his abilities, and he believes his best performance came against the top team in the Baseball Alberta Elite League, the Red Deer CarStar Braves.


Given that he still has a couple of years to go before he has to make a decision about college, Van Lagen plans to spend the majority of his time working on his mechanics and getting stronger during the coming offseason.

The added attention he received because of the social media posts has given him some inspiration to keep working hard.

His father says he’s noticed a marked improvement since he joined the Neutral Hills program.

“It’s double the work for him, and at times, people have tried to talk him out of it, but we are proud of his determination to make this work,” Kevin said.

“In the past year, he has increased his velocity from 65 miles an hour to 75 with both arms, and if he can find consistent control, pitch variation and a continued velocity growth, who knows what’s possible.”

One thing he won’t have to search for is a new glove, as he finally found an ambidextrous option online that he wore during the provincial tournament.

“I ordered it from 44 Pro Gloves and it’s got six fingers,” Nathan smiled. “It definitely took a while as I looked for years and it took a few months to even be made.”

As it turns out, it was a mitt that has really been years in the making.


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