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In 2005, you were a second-rate major-league pitcher on the verge of an ignominious retirement. Then you turned to the knuckleball.
Thankfully, I was self-aware enough to get my ego out of the way and make it my primary pitch.
How do you explain the knuckleball to non-initiates?
It’s like trying to throw a butterfly into a mailbox.
You’ve had some help from your so-called Jedi Council in developing your pitch. Can you explain?
I’m a huge Star Wars fan, and that’s what I named the fraternity of former knuckleball pitchers-Charlie Hough, Tim Wakefield, Phil Niekro-who helped me out along the way.
Are you more Luke Skywalker or Yoda?
I always wanted to be Luke Skywalker, but I’ve always felt much more like Darth Vader, unfortunately.
You’ve battled a lot of demons. You talk about them-your sexual abuse as a boy, your mother’s battle with alcoholism, infidelity in your marriage-in your recent memoir, Wherever I Wind Up. Why did you write it?
I felt like God had given me a story that he wanted me to share. I also have a real love of the written word, which started in Grade 7 when I read The Once and Future King. I got into the classics: Shakespeare, Dickens, Poe. I think if I weren’t a pitcher, I’d be an English professor.
What would be on the syllabus?
The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald. If it were an advanced class, maybe The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. Some Tolstoy, too.
Last year, when you played for the Mets, you won 20 games. It’s been a rough start to your first season with the Jays. Can you live up to the expectations of fans?
It depends on the expectations. The worst thing I can do for the Jays and Toronto is to try to repeat last year. You really have to invest in the moment: how can I make the most of this pitch in this game? If I can reduce it down to that, I should end up in a good place.
(Photo: J. Meric/Getty Images Sport)