It’s Never Too Late To Learn A Knuckleball

It’s embarassing, really, to be one of the writers for a blog about minor league baseball – a writer who has taken it upon himself to follow the numerous independent leagues this season – and to realize after checking your RSS feed that you have been beaten to the punch (by seven hours) on a pretty cool little story.  Damn you, Will Leitch!

Here’s the deal: the American Association’s St. Paul Saints, an organization that is presided over by the legendary Mike Veeck (of the legendary Baseball Veecks), planned on holding two days of open tryouts this week.  Mother Nature did not approve of the schedule ahead of time, however, and both days ended up being cancelled. 

This might have been enough to convince most people that it just wasn’t their day and they should consider postponing the dream until the next time the Saints offered such an opportunity.  Not Jon Secrist, a 53-year-old knuckleballer who appeared in a couple games for the Saints nine years ago and who would not be denied on this day.  He threw for the manager, George Tsamis, and was rewarded with an invitation to spring training.  26 players will be in camp for the Saints, two of which will be cut before the start of the season.  Two more will be let go after the first week, when the team must drop down to its in-season limit of 22.

What we have here is a walking, breathing example of what makes the independent leagues so great.  Only in that environment can a guy who is two years away from earning the senior discount at McDonald’s walk onto the field and impress the coaching staff enough to receive even a chance at making the team.  It’s not happening in Pawtucket, or Greenville, or Albuquerque.  But in St. Paul?  “We like the way you throw and you’re a great story.  Come on down to spring training and we’ll see what happens.”  You’ve gotta admit, that’s pretty cool.

Photo: St. Paul Saints

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