Ambidextrous Mississippi State pitcher making a splash on both sides of the mound
Published 5:34 pm Monday, February 27, 2023
STARKVILLE (AP) — Jurrangelo Cijntje is one of the most fascinating novelties in college baseball so far this season.
The Mississippi State freshman is a rare ambidextrous pitcher, the most notable since Pat Venditte appeared in 61 major league games from 2015-20.
Cijntje already throws harder than Venditte did. His fastball was clocked at 97 mph right-handed and 92 mph left-handed when he pitched four shutout innings and gave up one hit in a 14-3 win over Louisiana-Monroe last week. Cijntje struck out six with his right arm and one with his left in his first start.
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“He’s as chill as you’ll find in everything he does,” coach Chris Lemonis said. “He left his country, came to Starkville, Mississippi. Nothing fazes him. He’s just a competitor. He’s going to get hit at times. You’re going to see a kid who gets a lot better.”
Cijntje (pronounced SAIN-ja), who was not made available for an interview this week, said in a recent story for the MSU athletics website that he is a natural lefty. He grew up on the Dutch Caribbean island of Curaçao — he played in the 2016 Little League World Series — and started throwing with his right arm because he wanted to imitate his father, Mechangelo, who played professionally in the Netherlands.
Eventually Cijntje’s right arm became stronger than his left.
“I really stopped using my left arm,” Cijntje told HailState.com. “I’d use it a little bit, but that’s probably why now I have so much strength and confidence on the right side, because I used it more. On the left side though, I still have the same confidence.”
His father also worked with him to develop some unique exercises to strengthen his arm.
“My dad got a ball and put screws in it (in such a way) that I could throw it at a tire and the ball would stick in the tire,” Cijntje told HailState.com. “In Curacao, we don’t have medicine balls or any kind of weighted balls to throw. He just put screws in it so the ball could have some weight on it. It helped me be accurate throwing into the tire and strengthened my arm, too.”
Cijntje lived with his cousin while attending high school in Florida. The Milwaukee Brewers selected him as a shortstop in the 18th round of the MLB amateur draft last year, but Cijntje didn’t want to give up pitching and went to college instead.
Cijntje uses a specially made glove worn on either hand. He must indicate which arm he’ll use to pitch before the batter steps into the box, and he must use the same arm throughout the at-bat.
“It’s probably the coolest thing,” catcher Ross Highfill said of being Cijntje’s battery mate. “It’s a little weird trying to get used to his lefty and righty. You have to prepare in advance and catch a lot of his bullpens.”
Cijntje also warms up a bit differently.
“I probably throw five or seven pitches from one side, then if I feel good, I just go to the other side and just keep switching and moving back and forth,” Cijntje said.
Cintje has pitched in two of Mississippi State’s first eight game and is yet to give up a run. He started and pitched four shutout innings with seven strikeouts in a 14-3 win over Louisiana-Monroe on Feb. 22.
Cijntje could see action Tuesday when the Bulldogs face Southern Miss at Trustmark Park in Pearl. First pitch is at 6 p.m. The must-see pitches would come whenever Cijnte gets in the game.
“He is special,” Lemonis told HailState.com. “When you talk to people about him, it’s like )some think it’s a) little bit of a circus act. Everybody just thinks, ‘That’s so cool.’ But it’s real.”