Knuckleball pitcher Tomo Ohka, whom we mentioned last month in a post about how he was working to impress “scouts from the Orioles, Royals, Rays, and Diamondbacks” with his pitch, is back in the game as a minor leaguer. The Baltimore Orioles are giving him a shot. The Baltimore Sun reported recently that four minor league signings by the Orioles were “headlined by the latest comeback bid by 40-year-old Japanese right-hander Tomo Ohka.”
Ohka last pitched competitively in the independent Atlantic League for the Bridgeport Bluefish in 2014 and hasn’t pitched in the majors since he was with the Cleveland Indians in 2009. He has reinvented himself as a knuckleball pitcher and was in spring training with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2013.
Ohka, originally signed by Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette back when Duquette was in charge of the Boston Red Sox in 1998, also tried out for the Orioles back in 2013, when he began working on his knuckleball.
Duquette, who also oversaw the emergence of knuckleball pitcher Tim Wakefield while in charge of the Red Sox, has tried to add a knuckleballer to the Orioles’ stable with the likes of Eddie Gamboa and Zach Clark.
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Knuckleball metaphor alert: “Where conservatives usually hurl fastballs,” says The Olympian‘s Anna Douglas, “North Carolina’s Mark Walker wants to try a change-up. Or maybe his go-to pitch: a knuckleball.”
There follows political stuff about how Walker is going to be pitching those knucklers in his political strategy. The knuckleball is coming up in a discussion of the congressman not only because the reporter is a fan of baseball analogies but also because Walker used to throw a non-metaphorical knuckleball.
In baseball, there’s no real template for knuckleball pitchers to follow. The pitch can shift slightly in the wind and typically catches a batter off guard. It’s often difficult for a pitcher to control a knuckleball. But when done well, it’s an effective pitch and one that Walker used often in Little League, high school and a year of college before turning to the pulpit.
Pulpit? Yes, Walker is also a Baptist minister.
His Facebook page has not been updated since July 7, 2014. But the post published on that date includes a brief video of the soon-to-be congressman pitching the knuckleball. “100+ supporters, 1 knuckleball and our future Congressman = a great night at the Greensboro Grasshoppers.”
Walker also pitched last summer in the annual Congressional Baseball Game. The Republicans won the game for the first time since 2008.
On the Republican side, the team counted on pitcher Rep. Mark Walker of North Carolina. Rep.
“Mark’s a good pitcher. He has a funky knuckleball and he has a great attitude,” [Representative Joe] Barton said.
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Blogger Bill Mohr agrees that the knuckleball as the gift that keeps on giving:
[T]he film “Knuckleball!” is not just about athletes, but an examination of what any meaningful undertaking involves: a willingness to persevere. The basic advice that retired knuckleball pitchers, such as Charley Hough, had for Wakefield and Dickey was that they had to believe that their best years would be when other pitchers had long been retired. I suppose one could describe knuckleball pitchers as the avatars of delayed gratification in professional baseball.