Minor League Notebook / Donna Carter : Knackert Is Now on His Game
In the film “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” Bueller, played by Matthew Broderick, feels the need to cheer up his buddy, so he feigns illness, skips school, goes out on the town and, most important, gets away with it.
Pitcher Brent Knackert was not so lucky his senior year at Ocean View High School in 1987--perhaps because he took several days off.
At the start of the 1987 season, Knackert, one of Orange County’s top high school pitchers, was expelled from school a day before Sunset League play began for skipping classes and using an unauthorized hall pass.
“Some of the guys on our team would skip classes, and we would get popped for it because the bright lights were right on us,” Knackert said.
But he acknowledged that a rambunctious temperament and a few scuffles rightfully landed him off the Ocean View baseball team and into Wintersburg Continuation School in Huntington Beach. “That was the year we were all the tough guys. We were the seniors. My buddy gets in a fight, I have to get in a fight with him and vice versa,” Knackert said. “It was not that big a deal, it’s just we were stupid enough to get caught every time we fought.”
As a junior, Knackert was 4-1 with four saves. He pitched only seven innings in his short senior season, allowing only one hit and striking out 16.
That, and performances in front of scouts at semipro games, were enough to impress the Chicago White Sox, who made him a second-round draft pick and gave him a $62,500 signing bonus.
“I was expecting to go in the seventh or eighth,” Knackert said. “The first day of the draft, I didn’t even stay home. I figured the second day I might stay home and wait for a phone call.”
That was two years ago.
These days, a more mellow Brent Knackert is in Florida pitching for the Sarasota White Sox, a Class-A team in the Florida State League.
“I am mild-mannered now,” said Knackert, who will be married in February.
“Believe me, two years in the minors kind of mellows you out.”
He has a 6-4 record, an earned-run average of 3.93, has struck out 62 and walked 27.
Though he no longer concerns himself with taking days off, he has had to take off a few pounds--quite a few.
Knackert’s weight problems started after his Rookie League season in 1987.
“I came home, ate, slept and got all chubby,” Knackert said. “I just sat around and never exercised. The main thing I did was I ate late at night. I slept on it and just let it sit in my gut. My face got all fat. I was 174 and went up to 217. It was pretty bad,” said Knackert, a 6-foot-3 right-hander.
He problems continued through the ’88 season until White Sox coaches told him the weight was coming off. Enter Vern Gambetta, a conditioning coach who works with professional athletes.
Every Tuesday and Thursday from November to February, Knackert would show up at the Starr Rehabilitation Clinic at Fountain Valley Hospital at 9 a.m.
Knackert acknowledged the program helped. “I wouldn’t have been able to make it through spring training in the shape I was in last year,” he said.
Knackert now weighs 189, but he has been hampered by a back injury in spring training.
“My last two starts I did really well,” said Knackert. “I gave up one earned run in 15 innings, which made me 6-4. But my last start, my back went out again and I pitched only two innings.
“I am throwing all arm, which puts that much more wear and tear on my arm. I can’t bend over, can’t follow through. It is really noticeable that I have a back problem. I pitch and I stand straight up.”
“Minor league life is how I thought it was,” Knackert said. “Moving around, a bunch of loading. We load everything. We pay all this money for extra stuff and don’t get paid very much. I room with three other guys and pay $150 a month so I have got a few bucks left over.
“You play 140 games. You have to listen to 140 national anthems. It gets really old really quick. If you don’t absolutely love baseball, you can’t hack it in this game. If you room with a guy who still loves baseball even more than you, you’ve got to watch the big leagues on TV and stuff.”
Knackert pitched one game in relief and played four in center field before he was expelled from high school. “I was doing well hitting. Maybe I would have been drafted as a position player. I hit three home runs in four games,” he said.
“If I went up there now, I probably couldn’t hit cause I haven’t seen a pitch in about two years. It is kind of a bummer, but life is tough. You can go out there and pitch but there is nothing else you can do about it. If hitters don’t hit, you can’t help yourself.”
Titan watch--Former Cal State Fullerton player Billy Moore has a new start, thanks to a trade in May to the Baltimore Orioles’ triple-A team in Rochester, N.Y.
Moore, 27, signed with the Montreal Expos in 1983 and spent his first seven years in professional ball with them, the past three with their triple-A team in Indianapolis. He even started a couple of games for the Expos in 1986. But he’s glad he was traded.
“Oh, it’s good,” said Moore, who is now Rochester’s designated hitter. “A change of scenery, something different. I was getting stale with Montreal. I was going on my seventh year with them.
“You get to a point in your career where something has got to change, you either need to be traded or have more of an opportunity to play in the big leagues.
“That long with one organization, they have pretty much made up their mind about you and pretty much dwell on what you can’t do instead of what you can.”
On Thursday, Moore hit a two-run homer to help Rochester defeat Syracuse.
Moore is hitting .200 through 36 games. He has 22 hits, four doubles, four home runs, 13 runs scored and 17 RBIs.
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