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Heroes, Knuckleballs, and Zink

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I've mentioned in the past being a rather large Red Sox fan. Yesterday, some interesting news came out from Red Sox Nation. Tim Wakefield, the Red Sox player with the longest tenure, is injured and won't be able to pitch as scheduled tomorrow. For those who might not be familiar with Wakefield, he's a pretty unique talent in baseball. He's one of two major league players (that I know of) who throw the knuckleball. In a world where other players are trying to throw the ball 100 miles per hour, Wakefield is successful "tossing" the ball to the plate at a mere 65-70 mph. The knuckleball pitcher is so uncommon in modern baseball that ESPN had a story about how they'll help each other out - even if they are on competing teams.

The interesting news is that the Red Sox are replacing Wakefield with another knuckleball pitcher from their farm system, Charlie Zink. The odds of that astound me. Zink isn't being called up as some kind of publicity stunt - he's simply one of the best pitchers the Red Sox have available.

The story takes a twist more bizarre than the knuckleball itself. I was reading up on Charlie Zink trying to get to know him a bit. I found this question and answer with Zink. Zink didn't play baseball until he was 11 (by that time I had been retired from baseball for 4 years). He saw a baseball game and became fascinated by a pitcher able to dominate the opposing team, with a slow pitch. That pitcher... Tim Wakefield... the same guy he'll replace.

For a number of years, I have thought, "If I get bored enough, I'll learn how to throw a knuckleball and get a few million dollars a year playing baseball." In fact, I remember telling a co-worker this just last year. Of course it's not quite that simple - in fact throwing a knuckleball well is extremely difficult. Competing in professional sports typically requires an extreme amount of athleticism. I love the fact that someone without great strength, speed, or reaction time can compete at a top level.

Why is Zink my hero? He was undrafted, almost out of baseball. He stuck through with it and if all goes well, will be doing his dream job and getting paid well to do it. He has also succeeded despite all his coaches telling him that he should give up on the knuckleball. That kind of perseverance gives me motivation that I can succeed with blogging.

On the other hand, if he pitches horribly today, at least he has a pretty cool name.

Last updated on August 11, 2008.

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4 Responses to “Heroes, Knuckleballs, and Zink”

  1. jim says:

    Knuckleballs sure are fun to watch though, until Aaron Boone jacks one over the fence and the Yankees beat the Red Sox in extra innings. :)

    The whole knuckleball fraternity is awesome though, I’m happy for them. I went to a cage with a speed gun once and threw as hard as I could… I think of three tries I broke 60 once and nearly threw out my arm.

  2. Lazy Man says:

    I guess that’s like the Bill Buckner. Everyone blames the wrong guy. Wakefield was slated to the playoff MVP that year if the bullpen holds the lead – and he had already held it for one inning.

    Tip your cap to the Yankees for having a bullpen that only gave up 1 run in 8 innings after Clemens pulled his typical playoff choke.

  3. Bill says:

    Another amazing feat, besides throwing the knuckler, is catching it! Those catchers are truly amazing. Most major league pitchers who don’t throw the knuckleball can pretty much pinpoint their pitches within several inches. Not so with the knuckleball. That’s the secret of its success — NOBODY knows where the thing’s going to go, most especially the catcher (who HAS to catch it).

    Kudos to them, the real unsung heroes of sport. (Note: I was not a catcher.)

  4. Michele says:

    Are they still going to stick with Zink now that they traded for Paul Byrd?

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