SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Max Charles displayed an 88 mph fastball during Game 3 of the States Play Invitational on Sunday as a right-handed pitcher. Then, he displayed an 87 mph fastball as a lefty.
“He’s like a switch-hitting Ohtani that pitches [with both arms],” said broadcaster Bruce Chen as he watched Charles warm up. “That’s a unicorn.”
Charles, a 16-year-old attendee at Liberty HS in Peoria, has been switch-pitching since he was 2 years old. He is a baseball anomaly: beyond being a switch-pitcher, he is also a switch-hitter. Unlike the illustrious lineage of hitters capable of producing from both sides of the plate, being able to throw with both arms has proven persistently unique; Pat Venditte, who appeared with six clubs over five seasons from 2015-20, has been the only AL/NL pitcher in the Modern Era to do so regularly.
“As I went through the years, I kind of lost interest in one [side] and then regained it,” Charles said. “It’s stayed pretty consistent. I’m here today and it’s got me a lot of recognition.”
Charles was the final hurler to take the hill in the West’s 5-1 victory in Game 3 of the States Play series. He recorded the first out of the frame as a righty, inducing a first-pitch groundout. After walking three batters (one lefty, two righty), pitching coach and former two-time National League All-Star Brad Penny jogged out for a visit, giving the ambidextrous pitcher a breather.
He rebounded to notch a strikeout as a right-hander on a sharp offspeed pitch, which ultimately served as the game’s final out due to having reached his pitch limit. In his first live outing since July, Charles showcased another aspect of what makes him a captivating prospect.
Consistently, Charles has been a harder thrower from the right side, regularly clocked at 88-89 mph with his fastball having heavy sink. From the left side, he traditionally sits in the 85-86 range, although his breaking ball is regarded to have superior action as a southpaw. When it comes to keeping both arms freshly tuned, it’s been a matter of preparation.
“I’ve worked on it so much that I try and get it as identical as I can,” Charles said of his left and right arm slots. “Obviously, both sides have a little bit of a different mechanics, but overall, I like to think of it as the same.”
While his pitching tendencies have drawn interest, Charles, an uncommitted member in the Class of 2024, excelled at the dish during States Play as well. The 6-foot-3 infielder slashed the first pitch he saw for a game-tying RBI double Friday night as a righty batter, before ripping a single in the bottom of the first during Game 2 at Chase Field as a lefty.
The States Play Invitational, which featured two games at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick and one at Chase Field, was played virtually in Charles’ backyard. He was the rare participant who merely needed a ride to the showcase, as opposed to having to hop on a plane.
“It really did have a significance,” Charles said of playing in Arizona. “I live right down the street, and it was nice to see guys that I’ve played summer ball with all across the country in my backyard.
“It was good to come out here and face the best.”
In addition to the whirlwind of baseball activities, Charles also got to enjoy a mid-game interview with sister, Sande, a sideline reporter for MLB Network during Sunday's live stream on MLB.com. From Friday morning team workouts to Sunday afternoon pictures with the championship plaque, there was just one way the switch-hitting, switch-pitching prepster could describe States Play:
“Best experience of my life.”