Finding success with the knuckleball in the major leagues is rare.
But finding success as a knuckleball pitcher and as a children’s book author at the same time is even more uncommon.
R.A. Dickey is hoping to master both when his new book ‘Knuckleball Ned,’ is released May 1.
The storyline follows a young knuckleball, whose rarity makes him a target for bullies. Throughout the book, Ned learns to love what makes him so different from other balls.
As the only current knuckleball pitcher in the league, Dickey said that was something to which he could relate.
“As far as the characters themselves and trying to find a way to celebrate what makes us all unique, that particular part is drawn from personal experience,” said Dickey, who transitioned into a knuckleballer in 2006 — 10 years after he was drafted by the Texas Rangers as a conventional right-handed pitcher — but struggled to find his identity in the league until 2010.
‘Knuckleball Ned’ is the third book written by the Blue Jays pitcher after his autobiography, ‘Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball,’ and an adaptation of the same book toned down slightly for adolescent readers.
Dickey says his four kids, aged 3-to-12, were his “biggest critics” during the writing stages of his first book geared toward a child audience.
“It was good to share the steps and the process with them,” he said. “I could figure out what made them laugh, what they didn’t understand. They had great questions about it throughout, and it was nice to have their input.
“Reading is very important to them ... It’s integral for their education but more than that, they enjoy reading leisurely which I’m so thankful for. My wife and I have been intentional about limiting their time on electronic devices so they have a real appreciation for books and the written word.”
Dickey, who’s 2-3 so far this season with a 5.09 ERA, says he plans to write more in the future.
First on the list is a companion book for ‘Knuckleball Ned,’ which will come out next year.
“It’ll be another adventure for him,” he said. “But beyond that I’m hoping to write a book of short stories.”
NOTES: The Blue Jays sent 2B Ryan Goins to triple-A Buffalo and called up infielder Chris Getz. The 25-year-old Goins had nine hits and 13 strikeouts in 24 games with the big league club this season. ... Toronto starters rank 27th in the majors in innings pitched at 134 through 25 games and 24th in ERA (4.43).
GET TO KNOW ... RP Neil Wagner
Wagner was sent to Buffalo last week, but answered some questions for the Canadian Baseball Network before his [neil wagner] demotion.
MY MOST MEMORABLE GAME: “Winning the Eastern League in 2009 with the Akron Aeros was pretty cool, so for me that’s probably the most memorable. I didn’t pitch in that specific game, but I had pitched in the two previous games. I had never won anything like that before.
“I had also been there the whole season, and that’s the only year I’ve ever spent a full season somewhere, so that was pretty cool.”
THE BEST ADVICE I’VE EVER RECEIVED: “My short-season pitching coach Kenny Rowe (with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers in 2006) told me when people have advice, listen to all of it, then decide which advice you want to take.”
CANADIANS IN THE MAJORS
The New York Yankees promoted right-handed pitcher Chris Leroux (Mississauga, Ont.) on Monday.
Leroux, a Team Ontario grad, signed a two-way deal with New York in the off-season -- $20,000 a month on the minor [Chris Leroux] league side and $550,000 in the majors, after spending 2013 in Japan.
The 30-year-old started two games for triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this season, giving up 12 runs — nine earned — and striking out six in 6 1/3 innings.
Though he told CBN in February that he considers himself a major-league calibre starter, Leroux will likely work out of the bullpen in New York for now.
NOTES: The Pittsburgh Pirates placed catcher Russell Martin (Montreal, Que.) on the 15-day disabled list Saturday with a strained left hamstring. Martin complained of hip pain during the Pirates' 1-0 loss to the Cardinals Friday, and had an MRI to see if the two ailments were connected. ... Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie (Langley, BC) is hitting just .179 through 95 at-bats, but is sixth in the American League in RBIs with 20. ... Colorado’s Justin Morneau (New [Justin+Morneau+Colorado+Rockies+v+Arizona+8t9Gh1MHrC-l] Westminster, BC) is hitting .385 with 10 hits, including two doubles, three home runs, and eight RBIs, over his last seven games.
CANADIANS IN THE MINORS
Phillies triple-A outfielder Tyson Gillies (Langley, B.C.) was back in the lineup for the Lehigh Valley Ironpigs Monday after serving a three-game suspension.
Gillies, who’s on Philadelphia’s 40-man roster, was suspended after he damaged a bat rack and dugout wall during a game Thursday in which he went 0-for-5 with four strikeouts.
Senior national teammate Scott Mathieson (Aldergrove, BC), who -- like Gillies -- is an alum of the Langley Blaze of the British Columbia Premier Baseball League, came to the 25-year-old’s defence on Twitter.
“Gillies is one of the hardest workers I’ve met, just (an) all around good guy who has had some very bad luck. Tyson is a great teammate and great person.
“He is always fun to be around. Hopefully he will learn from this and be able to help the Phillies out this (year),” Mathieson said in a series of tweets.
Gillies was 1-for-4 with a walk and two strikeouts in Monday's game. He’s batting .190 so far this season.
CANADIANS IN COLLEGE
Corner infielder Roman Testani (Vaughan, Ont.), catcher Jason Hardie (Ajax, Ont.) and middle infielder Sean Alp (Mississauga, Ont.), are all having stellar seasons with their respective college teams.
Testani is hitting .376 with two home runs, 19 RBIs and 16 stolen bases for Taft College in Taft, Calif.
Hardie, who recently signed a letter of intent with West Virginia Wesleyan College for next year, has a .409 batting average while scoring 16 runs for Jefferson Community College in Watertown, N.Y.
And Alp is hitting .349 with 31 runs, 17 RBIs and 10 stolen bases for Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville, Iowa.
All three will be playing summer ball for Steve Breitner and Matt Mills’ Etobicoke Rangers junior team this year. Testani and Hardie are returning for their second stint on the Etobicoke squad, while Alp will be making his Rangers debut.
NOTES: Arizona State sophomore LHP Ryan Kellogg (Whitby, Ont.), former Ontario Prospects star, was named the PAC-12 Player of the Week after throwing his second career shutout in a 7-0 Territorial Cup win over the University of Arizona on Saturday.
— Follow Melissa Couto on Twitter: @ThrowinSmoke