Most pitchers at this level are rotating between a few conventional pitches, but not Matt Graser.
“I probably throw about 80-90 percent knuckleballs, some games actually a little more,” Graser said.
He leans on the pitch now, but as a kid, it was just a pitch to joke around with.
“One of my friends actually taught me when we were about 14 years old,” Graser said. “We were just messing around with it. He said, ‘You ever thrown a knuckleball?’ No. He said, ‘Try it.’ I toyed around with it for a few years, and it got pretty decent I guess.”
And now in his college days, he’s turned it into a real threat.
“My freshman year of college I came to school, and it was just an off-speed pitch,” Graser said. “They told me, ‘Hey, that’s actually pretty good. Would you try throwing that all the time?’ Well, I’ll give it a shot and see what happens.”
Mastering the knuckleball is hard, because once it’s out of his hand, he and his catcher don’t know where it’ll end up.
“I’ve had a few games where the wind’s blowing and howling out to dead center, and I don’t really have a ton of control over it,” Graser said. “I just kind of aim down the middle and hope it misses the barrel.”
“It was a really big challenge right away to learn how to adjust to the movement,” Big Sticks catcher Ben Thoma said. “It’s kind of hard to prepare because you know the first one’s never going to be the same as the next.”
But for Graser, the adversity of the pitch makes it fun. It’s always a work in progress.
“On its best days, I can get halves of the plate, but that’s about the best I can do,” Graser said. “I pretty much aim middle part of the zone, down near the bottom, and just hope for the best.”
Entering Saturday’s game, Graser is 7-3 in 11 starts for the Big Sticks.