The first time I was asked about the release of the knuckleball was when I was being grilled by a Cincinnati Reds cross-checker after a successful tryout. I was 22 and was about to graduate college. I just got done striking out the side with 57-63 mph knuckleballs, and the cross-checker said he’d have signed me on the spot if I was throwing hard. To tell you the truth, I had no clue how hard I was throwing. I could’ve just thrown harder had he asked.
It’s the most pressing question on the minds of young knuckleballers — How do I release the knuckleball? Well, I’m here to tell you that the release is just a small part of what makes a good knuckleball.
The Kinetic Chain
You have to understand the kinetic chain to understand why questions about the release are misguided. As a knuckleballer, or as a conventional pitcher for that matter, you need to be able to transfer the energy developed from your feet on the ground. This energy needs to come up through your body and out of your fingertips at the proper moment.
The release is the very last part of the kinetic chain. But, if the chain breaks at any point before the release, the ball will likely spin. You’ll be serving up meatball instead of throwing butterflies.
It’s imperative that you deconstruct your pitching mechanics from the ground up. Your arm is attached to your body. It goes where your body goes. If your body isn’t in the right position, then your arm will not be able to throw a quality knuckleball. Period. Full stop.
Young Knuckleballers and Inconsistency
This explains the ups and downs that most young knuckleballers face. On certain days, their body just so happens to be moving right. Knuckleballs come easy on these lucky days. But, just as easily, those body movements can be off. Then you can’t throw a good knuckleball to save your life. And you’re left frustrated and wondering. You may even question your value to the game.
This cycle will inevitably continue until you break down your mechanics to rebuild them from the ground up. You need to master every movement, from how your front foot lands on the dirt to keeping your head balanced in three dimensions, in order to become a consistently nasty knuckleball pitcher.
I would love to hear someone ask me about footwork or hip action. That’s where the knuckleball lives. But, so long as there’s enough demand, I’ll share my in-depth knowledge of the release. Knowledge I’ve gained from playing professionally as well as working with RA Dickey, Charlie Hough and Phil Niekro.
ANNOUNCING A New Instructional Video
The Knuckleball Nation website will soon start offering a $6.95 instructional video pertaining solely to the release. It’s a teaser for the wealth of information found in the Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced instructional videos.
With just a few clicks, you can learn the secrets to a great knuckleball release. Check back soon.