Yesterday, a trio of famous knuckleballers made their way to MLB’s FanCave to promote the movie “Knuckleball!” directed by Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg.
Metsmerized Online was invited to the event for a special roundtable discussion and I was also able to get a a few minutes with R.A. to talk a little Mets baseball.
MMO: What do you think is harder when it comes to the knuckleball, throwing it or having to be the guy on the other end catching it?
Tim Wakefield: Catching, I hate when guys throw me knuckleballs. I’ll throw it to you but don’t throw it to me.
Phil Niekro: All I know is I got paid to throw it, and they got paid to catch it.
R.A. Dickey:I actually reached out to Doug Mirabelli (Wakefield’s catcher in Boston) to see if he could give Josh Thole some insight. It was really helpful because the first four balls I ever threw to Josh went off his body, it missed his mitt completely. After that we hooked him up with Doug and he was a lot better.
MMO: You guys are all unique pitchers, throwing the same pitch but all having a different way of doing it. Can you tell us what makes you all different?
Dickey: I think its just a product of embracing who you are with it. When I first became a knuckleballer, I wanted to become Tim since he was the picture I had. He was still playing and I just saturated myself with video of him pitching and mechanically, try to be him. It worked off and on but something was missing. I met with Phil and he got me a little more athletic with my body and I realized that I had something that was unique for me and thats when my career took off.
Niekro: Your really got to be yourself, you can’t be someone else. We would like to be someone else but we can’t when it comes to the pitch. We hold the ball a little differently or throw it a little harder or have a different arm release. I threw it as hard as Dickey but it would’t make it to the plate. All the knuckleballers are a little different but we are the same inside. This is the pitch, this will get me there and keep me there. I am a knuckleballer.
MMO: Do you think your success in Boston (Wakefield) and New York (Dickey) combined with this movie will inspire younger ball players to become a knuckleball pitcher.
Dickey: That’s what we hope. I think Tim and I don’t want the pitch to go extinct nor do I think it will. I have a few good years left in me and there some guys coming up that are going to break in. Hopefully there will be a movement and you will see it com back like it was early on. I remember a White Sox staff where four out of four pitchers were knuckleball starters. I don’t know if you will ever see that because today everything is so geared towards strength and velocity and power pitching, you would have to see a real shift but I think its coming.
After the roundtable discussion Dickey was able to answer a few quick one-on-one questions pertaining to the Mets and his personal life.
MMO: What do you think your future is with the New York Mets?
Dickey: I would love to be back. I mean there is a part of me that believes that it is the right thing to do to stay loyal to the team that gave you your shot. At the same time, at the age that I am, I want to win. I don’t know how much longer I will be playing, hopefully that could be for five or six more years as a knuckleballer but you never know. I would like to know that the team is going in the right direction and I think we have some pieces that are really good so hopefully we will be able to work something out in the offseason, but I love New York and the fans and have had a great time being a Met.
MMO: What is your best/most memorable moment from this season?
Dickey: I would say being in that streak of scoreless innings, it seemed like I had such a good feel for it at that time and I knew I couldn’t sustain it but at the same time week after week. I surprised myself which is hard to do at this point. Also the back-to-back one hitters, when I missed a no-hitter in Tampa by an infield single, that was a pretty fun game during that stretch.
MMO: You mentioned some of the pieces going forward for the Mets. One of those pieces is Matt Harvey. Even though there is a different pitching style, is there any way you mentor or advise him, being the ace and veteran in the rotation?
Dickey: Harvey is really mature for his age and his time on the big leagues. He has really shown me a lot as a professional. I am available for whoever wants to talk and I always look for those guys who ask questions because those are usually the guys that want to learn and he does that. There is a lot I think can lend from the mental aspect having been through a lot, simply not because I am good but because I have experience and you always turn to those people who have walked a mile in your shoes.
MMO: Your walk up music is the Game of Thrones theme, any particular reason why?
Dickey: I don’t know I am just moved by it. I fall in love with pieces of music that move you in some way. I like the medieval feeling it has and it makes it seem like “OK, here I come.”
MMO: You climbed Mount Kilimanjaro last year, plus the excitement from everything during the season, any big plans for this years off season?
Dickey: I think I just want to be a father and husband for an offseason. I really miss my children and my wife and to able to do that and engage them is important to me. Maybe a trip to India to follow up on the outreach that I supported when I climbed Kilimanjaro in January would be on the docket though.
MMO: Lastly, a New York Times Best seller, a Cy Young award, or a national title for Tennessee college football, which one would it be?
Dickey: Oh my, I guess I would have to say the middle one. Definitely the Cy Young.
Message from Joe D.
I want to thank Michael for an outstanding job covering his first major event for us since joining our team at Metsmerized. Of course I also want to thank the producers and directors of Knuckleball! and the agents and our reps, Matt and Russ, for working with us and making us feel like VIPs right from the very start. And finally a big thank you to Phil Niekro, Tim Wakefield and R.A. Dickey who were gracious to us back at the screening, again on Wednesday night at Citi Field, and then again on Thursday at the MLB Fan Cave in NYC. Knuckleballers are very special pitchers who are part of a very tiny and exclusive fraternity. This movie is their story and their incredible journey. Go out and see Knuckleball! the movie, or order it on your cable or satellite provider’s Movies on Demand… You’ll love it!