Kasson-Mantorville grad Knoll finding key to success in pro baseball: Location, location, location
After concluding his college baseball career at Minnesota State, Mankato this spring, Brendan Knoll pitched in a summer pro league for the State College (Pa.) Spikers.
ROCHESTER — Brendan Knoll got a chance to showcase his baseball skills on the professional level this summer.
He discovered pitching is a lot like real estate: Location, location, location.
The Kasson-Mantorville High School graduate wrapped up his college career at Minnesota State, Mankato this spring. After going undrafted, he signed a pro contract with a summer league team, the State College (Pa.) Spikers.
A right-handed pitcher, Knoll pitched in 15 games with the Spikers. He made 13 starts and had one complete game. He had a 2-4 record with a 3.45 ERA. In 62⅔ innings he struck out 53, walked 18 and had a WHIP of 1.37 while allowing hitters to bat .266.
“I thought it went pretty well,” Knoll said. “I had some pretty good outings and a couple of shaky outings sprinkled in there. But it was professional baseball so it was a little bit better competition than I’ve been used to the last couple of years playing in the NSIC.”
Knoll, who will turn 24 this month, is 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds. He quickly discovered that when facing professional hitters, having a strong command of his pitches makes a huge difference.
“I found out you can’t really throw stuff down the middle anymore,” he said. “It was kind of a learning curve in that aspect. I’m trying to be more accurate with where I’m trying to put the pitches. And then that comes down to, I’m trying to attack the hitter’s weaknesses.”
Since the end of the season, Knoll has returned home to Minnesota. He is currently working out and helping to train players at Rochester Batting Cages with Alex Holcomb, an Owatonna native. Knoll also plans to train with Rochester’s Mitch Brown, a former minor-league pitcher in the Cleveland organization.
Brown has yet to see Knoll throw, but he is looking forward to working with him.
“I know he’s a really big, strong guy,” Brown said. “And that certainly bodes well for him to maintain through a long season, for his potential to have really good velocity and stuff to showcase.”
Knoll throws a two-seam fastball, a slider and a changeup. His fastball topped out around 91 miles per hour this summer. He hit 92 on occasion and he had hit 93-94 prior to joining the Strikers.
“My slider’s probably my bread and butter,” he said. “I can probably throw that (for strikes) whenever I want. And then my fastball and changeup are very similar so I like to mix those together. They look like they’re the same, but one’s obviously a little bit slower so it throws off the timing a little bit.”
Being able to throw fast is an ever-growing challenge for pitchers. Knoll wants to be able to throw as hard as he can, and to make that happen he wants to be flexible and mobile as possible in the spine, hips, legs and shoulders.
“As a pitcher you want to be super whippy,” he said. “And I’m more of a stocky guy. I’m not the most flexible and skinny type of guy so it’s been a work in progress.”
Knoll is looking to sign with a professional team for the 2023 season, but so far he doesn’t have anything lined up. That’s one reason he is excited to be working and training with Brown and Holcomb.
“I feel I have a lot left in the tank in my baseball career so I feel a couple of months of working with them could maybe get me an opportunity to keep playing somewhere for somebody,” Knoll said.
Brown said to catch the eyes of scouts or to make an impact at the pro level, Knoll needs to have a tool or tools that help him stand out.
“Whether that’s velocity or command or just really good pitchability, because everyone at the next level has established an outliner tool that’s gotten them to that position,” Brown said.
Knoll is also going to be an intern for Brown this offseason at Baseball Velocity, a training program he runs at Rochester Batting Cages.
If Knoll does not get another shot to pitch at the professional level, he still has a desire to stay in the game and give back to younger players. He is also currently helping Holcomb coach in a fall league for players 15 and younger.
“I’m really interested in being a coach when my baseball career is done,” Knoll said. “I feel like the work that I’ve been doing at the Batting Cages has been really good for me.”