The information handed down to me echoes through baseball history — Hall of Famer Hoyt Wilhelm mentored Charlie Hough, who, in turn, mentored me — and my mission continues. I strive to save the knuckleball from extinction by teaching its secrets and that mission puts Knuckleball Nation in the media spotlight.
MLB Network Interview with Former Red Sox & Tim Wakefield Manager, Kevin Kennedy
Former Red Sox and Tim Wakefield Manager Kevin Kennedy interviews Chris Nowlin, founder of Knuckleball Nation. The interviews is wide-ranging, but the two touch on the day Chris Nowlin fell in love with the knuckleball one humid summer night in 1995.
Wakefield nearly completed a no-hitter and Nowlin snuck down behind the backstop at Fenway Park as a 13-year-old as the Citgo sign glowed above the Green Monster in the hazy distance.
Kevin Kennedy is a believer in the knuckleball, and, as you’ll hear in the interview, he believes Knuckleball Nation will find the next great knuckleballer. You’ll also hear a couple of interesting stories about Wakefield that involve legendary power hitters and strikeouts.
“The internet [search] turned up Knuckleball Nation, run by Chris Nowlin, a former minor leaguer who studied under Mr Hough. During the winter Mr Nowlin becomes the knuckleball’s Johny Appleseed, holding clinics across the U.S.
Flying to Las Vegas for knuckleball lessons was a stretch, but that was only our first trip. When Mr Nowlin lined up Mr Niekro – the winningest knuckleballer ever – we flew to Atlanta. The chance to learn secrets from RA Dickey, who won the 2012 Cy Young Award with our beloved Mets, lured us to Nashville.
Ben was the youngest pupil in Mr Nowlin’s no-spin zone. There were a few high schoolers like Joe, some college hopefuls, a woman [Kelsey Whitmore] aiming to become the first female Major Leaguer, a pair of Japanese pros, and a couple of geezers in their 40’s and 50’s.”
“Chris Nowlin, a pro minor league knuckleballer who runs an instructional company called Knuckleball Nation, argues that the pressure to keep pace with increasing fastball speeds may be further restricting the knuckleball talent pool. Some knuckleballers, including Dickey, Wright, and Jannis, have dialed up their knucklers into the 80s, but that takes arm strength that not every potential knuckleball pitcher possesses.
“Now you’ve dwindled the prospective pool of knuckleballers, because the velocity paradigm has shifted,” Nowlin says. “You now need at least 85 mph in your arm, and guys with that type of velocity usually struggle for more velocity to emerge as conventional pitchers rather than spend years frustrated with the knuckleball. And without time, you can’t make a knuckleballer.”
‘Chris Nowlin would love to teach you how to throw a knuckleball. He runs his “Knuckleball Academy” out of a baseball training facility 10 blocks south of Los Angeles International Airport. He aspires to open his own facility, and he has an investor interested.”
Candiotti talked about the comfort in knowing the starter could go seven or eight innings. In today’s game, however, Nowlin believes he has a better idea for a knuckleballer.
“I think it would be devastating as an opener,” Nowlin said. “I know, in the independent league games I pitch, the guy that comes in from the bullpen after me commonly strikes out the side.
“The knuckleball hangover is very real.”
Said Candiotti: “That’s a great idea. You could probably do that three or four days a week, at least.”’
‘“I’m pulling for Chris and I hope I can carry the torch long enough for him or someone like him to take it from me,” says RA Dickey.
If he does end up claiming the torch, Nowlin will certainly have come through on the second part of Hough’s early – and colorful – assessment. The path less traveled will have been well worth the navigation.’
Worcester Telegram & Gazette: Nowlin Hopes his Knuckling Around will Pay Off
‘Hough was friends with one of the coaches and was waiting for his buddy to finish so they could go golfing. That’s when he spotted Nowlin throwing the knuckler.
“He came out of the stands and gave me his number,” Nowlin said.
He has been working with Hough at least once a month for the last two years. The veteran pitcher has deepened Nowlin’s knowledge about all aspects of throwing the knuckleball.
Hough said over the phone yesterday that Nowlin, like many young knuckleballers, was just sort of lobbing the ball to the plate when he first saw him. He has worked with him on his delivery.
“I thought the name of the game was just taking spin off the ball,” Nowlin said. “If it wasn’t for Charlie Hough, I’d still be fooling around with the wrong approach. Now I throw it right. I throw it hard and it’s made all the difference”‘