In Major League Baseball, one of the biggest differences between the American League and the National League is that the American League uses a designated hitter. This means that one player doesn't have to play the field, he just hits. The designated hitter primarily hits in place of the pitcher. That way, pitchers in the American League only have to worry about pitching.
In the National League, the pitchers hit, just like everybody else in the field. Typically, pitchers are not very good hitters because they spend all their time practicing pitching. They hit ninth in the lineup and are usually considered "easy outs."
Once in a while, though, a pitcher can also be the hitting star of a game. On Wednesday night, Yovani Gallardo of the Milwaukee Brewers turned in a great performance in his team's 1-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. Gallardo pitched eight innings and didn't allow a run. He only gave up two hits and struck out 11 Pirates. If that wasn't enough, Gallardo also hit a home run in the seventh inning, the only run that scored in the game.
Gallardo did it all for the Brewers on Wednesday night. He had what Major League ballplayers call a "Little League Game." In youth baseball and softball leagues, the best all-around athletes are usually the best hitters and the best pitchers. This trend can continue into high school and even college. Players are good athletes, so they succeed both on the pitcher's mound and at the plate.
As players move up the ranks in baseball, into the minor leagues and eventually the major leagues, they start to specialize in one position. Pitchers only focus on pitching, while players who play other positions continue to focus on hitting. That's why Major League pitchers are usually not very good hitters. Even if they were good hitters growing up, over the years they don't practice as much so they aren't as good as full-time hitters.
Two of the best-hitting pitchers in Major League Baseball today are Mike Hampton of the Houston Astros and Carlos Zambrano of the Chicago Cubs. Hampton has 15 career home runs; Zambrano has 17. Compared to other position players who have hundreds and hundreds of career home runs, these numbers don't seem very high. Since they don't often practice hitting, it's very remarkable when pitchers hit home runs.
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