Sports needs more Brandon Knights – a guy you root for simply because he seems, well, just like a guy.
He’s your neighbor. He’s your kid’s Little League coach. He’s your golf buddy.
And for one night, he was a starter in the major leagues.
Saturday night he stood on the mound at Shea Stadium in New York and become one of the oldest players to make his first major-league start. Knight is 32 years old.
In a sense, Brandon Knight is each of us, at least those of us who had a little game back in the day and dreamed of someday playing in the bigs.
Fourteen months ago, Knight, like most of us, had finally given up the dream. He’d played pro ball for 12 years but only made it to the Show for 11 relief appearances over two seasons, in 2001 and ’02 with the New York Yankees, posting a 10.71 ERA. He was done, he thought. Time to be a grown-up and get a real job to support his wife, Brooke, and two children.
But then the phone rang. It was Brett Jodie, an ex-teammate who was the pitching coach for the Somerset Patriots of the Atlantic League. Yes, the independent Atlantic League. The offer? Just $2,300 a month, not exactly grown-up, support-your-family money.
“We can’t live on that,” Knight told Brooke.
But Brooke, in a true wife-of-the-year move, told Brandon to keep chasing his dream. “If you don’t, you’re going to be really mad at yourself for ending it this way,” she said.
Knight pitched, went 12-5 and was signed by the Mets in late May.
Saturday’s storybook night against the St. Louis Cardinals was made possible when Pedro Martinez left the team due to the death of his father. Knight was called up from Triple-A New Orleans as an emergency fill-in. But there was no Emmy ending.
Knight pitched well enough to earn his first big-league win. He went five innings and gave up four runs (all in a butterfly-filled first inning) on seven hits with four Ks. He walked off the mound with a 5-4 lead, then watched reliever Carlos Muniz give up three straight hits in the sixth. All told, the Cardinals scored four runs in the sixth and went on to win 10-8 in 14 innings.
No matter, it remained Knight’s night, at least for now. His performance in Triple-A earned him a spot on the U.S. Olympic team, which is scheduled to leave soon for Beijing. It’s up to the Mets whether to keep him or allow him to chase gold.
Either way, Knight knows he can’t lose.
From now on, when somebody complains to me about “these athletes today,” either making too much money or being jerks or whatever, I’ll ask him if he ever has heard of Brandon Knight. Then I’ll tell him to shut the heck up.