Are Canadian-born Major League Baseball players more likely to bat left-handed? A partial test of the hockey-influence on batting hypothesis
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It has been suggested that Canadian-born Major League Baseball (MLB) players are more likely to bat left-handed, possibly owing to the fact that they learn to play ice hockey before baseball, and that there is no clear hand-preference when shooting with a hockey stick; approximately half of all ice hockey players shoot left. We constructed a database on active (i.e., October, 2016) MLB players from four countries/regions based on place of birth (Canada, United States of America [USA], Dominican Republic and South Asia [i.e., Japan, Taiwan and South Korea]), including information on which hand they use to bat and throw. We also extracted information on all Canadian-born MLB players, dating back to 1917. Our results confirm that the proportion of left-handed batters born in Canada is higher when compared to the other countries selected; also, since 1917, the proportion of Canadian MLB players who bat left has been consistently higher than the league average. We also compared the proportion of left-handed batters in Canada with players born in states in the USA grouped into high, average and low based on hockey participation. The proportion of MLB players born in states with a high level of hockey participation were more likely to bat left, although the differences were significant at trend level only (p < .10). Lastly, we found that while Canadians were more likely to bat left-handed, this did not correspond with a greater left-hand dominance, as determined by throwing hand. In conclusion, the present study confirms that Canadian-born MLB players are more likely to bat left-handed when compared to American, Dominican Republic and South Asian-born MLB players, providing partial support for the hockey influence on batting hypothesis.
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