Ambidextrous Blount excels in multiple sports
By Greg Bates
DE PERE – It’s a story that sticks out in Joe Rukamp’s mind.
To this day, he still finds it hard to believe.
The West De Pere varsity baseball coach remembers hearing about a quarterback at West De Pere Middle School who could do phenomenal things.
Josh Blount would roll out of the pocket to the right and then throw the ball right-handed.
If he was rolling out left, he would switch hands and throw with his left.
“I heard about this, and I’m like, ‘Wow, really? That’s crazy,’” Rukamp said. “It never crossed my mind in terms of baseball. I knew him as a left-handed thrower in baseball.”
Yes, Blount throws a baseball left-handed, but he tosses footballs with his right hand.
He recently wrapped up a four-year run as a standout quarterback on the Phantoms football team and center fielder on the baseball team.
Over the years, when parents and fans noticed Blount’s abnormal ability with his arms, he always received double-takes.
“People picked it up after a while,” Blount said. “They’re like, ‘Wait a minute. How do you do that?’”
It’s one thing to be ambidextrous and another to excel and have the ability and opportunity to compete in college in both sports.
In the fall, Blount will play baseball at Illinois State University, which is a Division I program.
Because he committed to the university as a sophomore, Blount never really received any offers to play college football.
However, he said there were several schools interested.
On the gridiron, Blount was the starting dual-threat quarterback for all four seasons, amassing 4,170 yards rushing and 65 touchdowns and throwing for 3,008 yards and 29 scores.
On the diamond, Blount was a two-year starter – his junior year was canceled due to the pandemic – in centerfield.
For his career, he logged a .352 batting average, .480 on-base percentage, scored 57 runs, tallied 27 RBI and stole 22 bases.
Rukamp said he was astonished by what Blount was able to do as an ambidextrous athlete.
“That’s amazing, it truly is,” Rukamp said, who in high school played baseball and quarterback and can’t imagine being able to throw well with both hands. “It’s always been interesting to me, and I never got into a philosophical discussion with him about it. I don’t understand as an athlete how that comes about where he learned to throw the football right-handed but throws a baseball left-handed.”
Lefty as a baseball player
Blount first picked up a baseball and started throwing at about 3 years old.
Jim Blount encouraged his son to work on throwing right-handed because if he wanted to play second base, shortstop or third base – there’s that unwritten rule in baseball that lefties don’t play those positions – he would have to be right-handed.
When he would go outside with Dad to play catch, Blount would be offered gloves for both hands.
“Whichever glove I picked that day, was the way I threw,” Blount said, whose dad is right-handed and mom is left-handed. “I got more comfortable with my left hand throwing in baseball, and for some reason, I didn’t like throwing the football left-handed, so I stuck to right-handed. It unfolded that way as we got further along. Pretty soon, I started batting from the left side, too.”
But Blount’s batting didn’t start solely on the left side.
In T-ball, he would switch at the plate.
“Starting out, he’d walk up to one side of the plate, or if the dugout was on the other side, he’d walk up to the other side of the plate,” Jim Blount said. “It didn’t matter to him. He’d do well from both sides. We left it open, and if he was struggling on one side, I’d say, ‘Hey, why don’t you try the other side.’”
Ultimately, Blount chose the left side of the plate.
“I thought it was easier to see the ball and do everything from the left side, especially with as many right-handed pitchers as there are,” Blount said.
His freshman year on the junior varsity, Blount experienced some soreness in his left arm, and his coaches wanted him to rest and recover.
So, naturally, Blount did what any normal ambidextrous baseball player does and switched to throwing right-handed.
“I remember being like, ‘Really? You really can do this?’” Rukamp said. “He started playing catch right-handed in open gyms, and it progressed that he played as a right-handed player in the outfield.”
Blount played a handful of games using his right hand before switching back to his customary left arm.
Blount said his arm strength and accuracy are pretty even with his arms to throw a baseball.
While playing travel baseball growing up, Blount and his teammates would joke around he should be an ambidextrous pitcher and how advantageous that would be for games.
“They’d say, ‘You should get one of those six-fingered gloves, and one inning, you should go out there lefty and one inning you should go out righty,’ – when you play six or eight baseball games in a weekend,” Blount said. “When you’re done pitching left, you switch the glove over and pitch another 100 right-handed. We would always joke about it. It never actually happened. I never actually got one of those gloves.”
Righty as a football player
Blount threw a baseball with both arms until he was about 6 or 7 years old.
He got into football at 7, but it wasn’t until he was around 10 he turned into a quarterback.
“Through Pop Warner, he was a running back and linebacker,” Jim Blount said. “He was a little bigger kid for his age group at the time. He seemed to excel at running. He didn’t really play quarterback until probably sixth or seventh grade and started throwing at that age. It’s hard to throw younger than that. He didn’t throw well left-handed; he seemed to favor the right side then. He threw pretty well in seventh and eighth grade.”
While learning the position, throwing with his dominant right hand felt more natural to Blount.
“It’s weird how the football comes out of his hand better as a righty and the baseball comes out of his hand better as a lefty,” Rukamp said.
So, why is it more comfortable to throw a football with his right arm?
“I’m not completely sure,” Blount said. “As I developed playing both sports and throwing more often, playing catch in the backyard, it became more natural to grip the ball that way. I did try to throw left-handed, but I realized the right arm was doing a little more – I could get a better spiral just with the wrist action. I felt like I could snap it off a little harder. So, I started throwing righty, and I never practiced left-handed after that because if you throw a baseball and throw a football right after, it’s a little different. On paper, it’s the same motion.”
Blount said he can throw a football right-handed about 55 yards in the air.
He hasn’t practiced throwing a football lefty for a while, but he figures he can still toss one 35-40 yards.
It isn’t just baseball and football where Blount switches his hands for activities.
Even though he swings a baseball bat from the left side of the plate, he golfs right-handed.
A big reason for that, according to his dad, is Blount didn’t have access to left-handed clubs.
On the volleyball court, Blount can spike with either his right or left arm – depending on which side of the net he’s on.
He kicks with his right foot and throws a frisbee right-handed.
In everyday life, he writes with his right hand – although he tried both hands as a youngster.
When he eats, Blount uses utensils with either hand.
“It’s a split between some of those odd things that are more comfortable to do one over the other,” Blount said.
Blount, his dad and Rukamp all admit they’ve never heard of a situation quite like Blount’s where a person is such a strong competitor no matter what hand he uses.
“He’s a special athlete,” Rukamp said. “If there was anyone that could do it, I guess he’s the guy. It’s shocking, but at the same time, I feel like, ah, it’s Josh. That’s how he is. He can go do it.”