Former NCAA Division I FBS quarterbacks John David Booty (USC), Josh Booty (LSU), Doug Flutie (Boston College), David Greene (Georgia) and Ryan Perrilloux (LSU & Jacksonville State), will compete for an invitation to the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Spring Training camp in MLB Network’s first-ever reality series competition The Next Knuckler, premiering Wednesday, February 13 at 9:00 p.m. ET. Produced by MLB Productions and co-hosted by World Series champion and former All-Star knuckleball pitcher Tim Wakefield and MLB Network analyst Kevin Millar, the five former quarterbacks will compete against one another to determine who can throw the best knuckleball.
Taped at Vero Beach Sports Village, the former Spring Training home of the Los Angeles Dodgers, each episode will feature the contestants learning from Wakefield how to throw this baffling pitch before facing challenges to test the effectiveness of their knuckleball. One contestant will be eliminated from the competition in each episode based on his performance and input from Wakefield and Millar. The winner will earn an invitation to the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Spring Training camp and the chance to pitch for the D-backs in a Spring Training game.
“I’ve dedicated my entire baseball life to the challenging art of throwing the knuckleball,” says Wakefield in the premiere episode. “Now, I’ve embarked on this mission to continue the knuckleball legacy. These guys were great athletes on the gridiron so I wanted to try this experiment out. You don’t have to grip the baseball the way I threw it, but if you want to win, you have to lose the spin.”
In addition to Wakefield and Millar, The Next Knuckler will feature special guests, including 2012 NL Cy Young Award Winner and knuckleball pitcher R.A. Dickey of the Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, former All-Star knuckleball pitcher Charlie Hough and 15-year old knuckleball phenom Chelsea Baker, who threw two perfect games for her Plant City Little League team in 2010.
“We look forward to being featured on The Next Knuckler and giving an opportunity to one of these top-flight athletes to come to Spring Training with the D-backs,” said D-backs President and CEO Derrick Hall. “With a knuckleball, you never know what kind of success a pitcher will have and that’s part of the intrigue for our franchise to take part in this reality show.”
Following the premiere hour-long elimination episode of the The Next Knuckler on Wednesday, February 13 at 9:00 p.m. ET, the final three episodes will air on February 14, 20 and 21 at 10:00 p.m. ET, with a re-air of the previous episode beginning at 9:00 p.m. ET.
John David Booty, 28, was the starting quarterback for two seasons at USC where he went 9-0 against top-25 teams. He was a fifth-round NFL draft selection of the Minnesota Vikings in 2008. Josh Booty, 37, John David’s older brother, was the fifth overall draft pick by the Florida Marlins in 1994 and played in 13 MLB games for the Marlins between 1996 and 1998. Booty was also a quarterback at LSU and was drafted in the sixth round of the 2001 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks. Doug Flutie, 50, won the 1984 Heisman Trophy while at Boston College and his “Hail Mary” touchdown pass against the University of Miami is regarded as one of the greatest plays in college football history. Flutie went on to a storied CFL career and played for the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots, among others in the NFL. David Greene, 30, set the SEC’s all-time passing yards record while playing at the University of Georgia and was once the winningest quarterback in NCAA Division I FBS history. Greene was drafted in the third round of the 2005 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks. Ryan Perrilloux, 26, played his college football at LSU and Jacksonville State. Perrilloux was named the 2009 Ohio Valley Conference Offensive Player of the Year while at Jacksonville State and spent time with the NFL’s New York Giants.