Knuckleballers Have Good Stories, and Dickey’s May Become A Movie

Doing rare, tough things makes for good story, and this week, courtesy of knuck-news scout Sweta Bhadra, we have a doubleheader.

Many successful knuckleballers turn to the pitch late in their careers. But Chelsea Baker, dubbed the “Knuckleball Princess,” seems to have mastered it early on.

Per Business Insider:

After rising to instant fame thanks to a pair of perfect little league baseball games four years ago, Baker and her killer knuckleball are taking on some of the most competitive high school baseball in the country. And thus far…Baker has aced it.

The 5-foot-2 120-pound Baker is 2-0 with a 0.78 ERA and three strikeouts in her first nine innings against competition in Florida’s Class 7A.

Baker learned the knuckleball from the brother of MLB Hall of Fame pitcher Phil Niekro. [According to Fangraphs, knuckleball pitcher Joe Niekro, who died in 2006, taught Baker the pitch when she was 7.] The junior is the only girl on the DurantHigh School baseball team.

Chelsea Baker

Baker’s original Little League stardom resulted in appearances on ‘Good Morning America’, ESPN’s ‘E:60′ and the MLB’s ‘This Week in Baseball’, as well as having her Little League jersey on display in Cooperstown.

Baker was coached by Tim Wakefield after being invited to join the MLB Network’s reality TV show, “The Next Knuckler.”

Baker would strike out former MLB infielder and Louisiana State quarterback Josh Booty, the eventual winner of the competition, along with the show’s host, Kevin Millar, a former teammate of Wakefield.

“That day was the best I’ve ever seen her knuckleball,” Mason said of his daughter. “No one could hit her that day.”

Although she has garnered plenty of attention in the States, Baker is a celebrity figure in Japan. In her visit last year, she was featured on the front page of sports pages and on Japanese TV shows. She was also constantly asked to sign autographs by adoring fans.

At age 15, Chelsea Baker, who has been throwing the knuckleball for eight years, has turned down a professional baseball contract from Japan. She wasn’t ready to do it just yet, but is considering it for the future. And it’s not her only option. A good kind of problem.

Compare that early promise of things to come to the long, slow slog, the ups and downs and near-missed opportunities, then sudden, surging triumphs of R.A. Dickey, recalled in his memoir Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, and the Perfect Knuckleball. This is a guy who was dismissively listed as a has-been just a few years before his big breakout.

Definitely the stuff of movies. Dickey has already been the co-subject of an absorbing documentary (“Knuckleball!”) and now we may be getting a drama about his life. The man whose bestselling book is the basis for the popular television series “Friday Night Lights,” Buzz Bissinger, is slated to write the script, says Deadline.com:

EXCLUSIVE: Actors Ben McKenzie and Logan Marshall-Green have joined forces to launch the shingle A Thing Or Two Productions. They come to the table in a big way. Tom Rothman’s TriStar Pictures has made a deal on a baseball memoir which the duo will produce with Michael De Luca. TriStar has optioned Wherever I Wind Up, the memoir by pitcher R.A. Dickey about his unusual life journey. Buzz Bissinger has been set to write the script. It becomes another eclectic project for Rothman’s upstart division….

[Dickey] was drafted by the Texas Rangers and offered a huge signing bonus, only to see the latter get taken away when the team discovered that Dickey was missing an important ligament in his pitching elbow. Undaunted, Dickey knocked around with a bunch of teams as he slowly harnessed an ability to throw the knuckleball, a pitch that fools batters because they have no idea (nor does his catcher) where the ball is going to go.

If anything has a more unpredictable path than the knuckleball, it’s movie options. But a lot of heavy hitters have signed up for the project and all signs are go.

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