A curious thing started to happen during the Champagnat Catholic School Games in 2019.
In the middle of a high school fall game against Florida Christian School, a field glove was sailing from the mound toward the dugout, and another glove was thrown in the opposite direction.
The target of that glove swap was Jurrangelo Cijntje, an ambidextrous pitcher from Curacao who is now an 18-year-old senior at Champagnat in Hialeah, Fla.
Cijntje now has a $500 ambidextrous Rawlings glove. But that wasn’t the case when he first arrived in the Miami area. At the time, Champagnat’s coach Jorge Aguas was the person throwing Cijntje his change of gloves.
Cijntje committed to Mississippi State and is a legitimate draft prospect as a switch pitcher.
“There are 15 to 20 scouts in each of his games,” Aguas said. “I think he will go between the first and the third round.”
However, a scout, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Cijntje was more likely to be drafted between the sixth and eighth rounds.
Florida Christian coach Chris Brigman and his players – who faced Cijntje in the fall of 2019 – were shocked at first.
“You’re doing a double take,” Brigman said. “Did he just change gloves to throw with his free hand?”
“Last year we played him again and he held us to one hit in seven innings. There was an obvious increase in his speed on both sides.
Cijntje is listed at 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds. But the scout sees Cijntje as closer to 5ft 9in or 5ft 10in at most.
“Jurrangelo is a draftable player, but there’s not a lot of projection there,” the scout said. “He will get stronger. He will probably gain a good 15 pounds, and that will help him.
“But his breaking ball, he can throw it for strikes, but it’s a medium throw.”
The scout was quick to add that he wasn’t downplaying Cijntje as a story.
“He hit 96 (mph) with his right hand and 92 with his left, and that’s amazing,” the scout said. “I’d bet there’s no one in the history of the game who has thrown as hard as he has with two hands.”
For the scout, Pat Venditte in 2015 became the first truly ambidextrous major league pitcher of the modern era. Before him, right-hander Greg A. Harris had thrown with his left hand in a game in 1995, at the end of his career. Prior to Harris, a handful of 19th century pitchers had pitched with two hands.
But Venditte, who last pitched in the majors with the Marlins in 2020, topped 85 mph right-handed and 83 left-handed.
As for Cijntje, it is not easy to predict his future as he is a unique talent.
“If he’s a seventh-round prospect with his right and a seventh-rounder with his left,” the scout said, “you can’t add it up and make him a third-rounder.”
Also, if he’s just up against right-handed hitters in an inning, he probably needs to warm up between frames with his left. The amount of work he has to provide on both sides is considerable.
“It’s special, but it’s also tricky,” the scout said.
Due to these factors, Cijntje might make more sense as a reliever and if so, it would diminish his value.
Draft aside, Cijntje comes from an impressive family. Her older sister Shariengela is a lawyer who was named Miss Curaçao and competed in the Miss Universe 2021 pageant.
Cijntje, who lives in Pembroke Pines, Fla., with his 26-year-old cousin Zachary Braafart, said his baseball development had its roots in the Netherlands. This is where his father, Mechangelo Cijntje, played professional baseball as a catcher.
A natural southpaw pitcher, Jurrangelo wanted to play catcher like his father, so he practiced throwing with his right hand.
“When I was 6, my dad taught me to throw right-handed,” said Cijntje, who speaks English, Spanish, Dutch and Papiamento. “He would make me throw a ball with a nail and I would aim it at a tire. This was to improve my accuracy.
Later, when Cijntje went to the mound, he relied on another of his father’s lessons. He was working on his change hold by throwing lemons, being careful not to squeeze too hard.
He first gained some fame when he helped Curacao reach the 2016 Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Cijntje kicked with both arms as Curacao went 1-2, beating Japan before being knocked out by Australia.
Cijntje’s dexterity with both hands extends to the batter’s box, where he is also a batter. In his team’s first 12 games – and a 4-8 start – Cijntje ranks fourth over Champagnat in batting average (.375) and has one home run, one triple and one double.
On the mound, he was 2-1 with a 2.06 ERA in four starts. He struck out 40 and walked five. He allowed 11 hits in 17 innings.
His only loss was to local rival Plantation American Heritage, who started first-round left-handed prospect Brandon Barriera.
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Going to Starkville
After Cijntje opted out of Stetson, Mississippi State pitching coach Scott Foxhall received a call from Victor Martinez, who had played for him at the College of Charleston.
Martinez, who had coached Cijntje as a travel ball assistant, told Foxhall the prospect was interested in playing in the Southeastern Conference.
Foxhall, a South Carolina native, who is in his fourth season at Starkville, was immediately interested in Cijntje as a prospect.
But he wasn’t sure about the proposed move from Miami to Mississippi.
That’s when fellow Bulldogs coaches reminded Foxhall that Rafael Palmeiro – “you know, the guy who has a statue in front of our ballpark” – is from Miami.
With that removed as an obstacle, Foxhall focused on Cijntje as a prospect.
“He’s a weird talent,” Foxhall said. “In addition to throwing, he’s a very good inside midfielder and hitter. I’ve seen him hit balls very far. I’m trying to hide it from (Bulldogs hitting Coach Jake) Gautreau.
Foxhall was of course joking. But he was serious about the amount of work Cijntje would have to put in to master all four facets – hitting and throwing from the left side and doing the same from the right side.
Cijntje said he’d rather go to college – he wants to study mechanical engineering – and delay the professional ball. The scout interviewed for this story believes the prospect will sign a professional contract this year.
Foxhall prepares just in case.
“Even though Jurrangelo speaks English, I’m trying to learn his language,” Foxhall said. “I take a little time each week to learn Papiamento to make Starkville a home for him.”
Joking about his accent, Foxhall said, “I speak redneck Papiamento.”
Apart from Cijntje’s physical ability, loyalty is another of his main attributes.
“We have a young team, but he hasn’t jumped ship,” Aguas said. “He had a transfer offer to IMG Academy, for example.”
Cijntje’s loyalty goes back to his homeland. Curacao players remain united and Cijntje said he is friends with Braves star Ozzie Albies and has met every major leaguer or former MLB player from the island.
This list includes Andruw Jones, Kenley Jansen, Didi Gregorius, Andrelton Simmons, Jurickson Profar, Jonathan Schoop, Hensley Meulens, Randall Simon and Roger Bernadina.
It remains to be seen if Cijntje can match or even come close to the accomplishments of his compatriots, most of whom entered affiliate baseball as international free agents.
Andrelton Simmons was a notable exception. He was the Braves’ second-round pick in 2010 in junior college. But before being a Gold Glove shortstop, Simmons played both ways as an amateur, with some teams preferring him on the mound.
Cijntje knows his future is on the mound. It’s only a matter of how high he’s drafted.