Nathan Beard has always had the dream of being a knuckleball pitcher.
As a youth growing up in Staples, MN, Beard began working on his knuckleball at a young age, and by the time he reached the high school varsity in the spring of 2004, Beard was looking for a place in the starting rotation.
But two things stood in his way of achieving his dream.
In 2004, Staples hired Pat Held, who had many years of high school and junior college coaching experience, as their head coach. Held, who was set in many of his coaching philosophies, let Beard know early and often that a knuckleball pitcher had no place on his pitching staff.
It didn’t the reputation of the knuckleball when New York Yankees 3B Aaron Boone hit a walk-off home run off Boston Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS.
Beard, who played third base and pitched in 2004, continued to throw his knuckleball in his free time, but was banned from throwing it in practice or in games.
But Beard tried to persuade Coach Held. Nathan chose number 49 as his uniform number, the number of the knuckleballer. He also changed Coach Held's computer to desktop to photos of Tim Wakefield everytime Nathan left his class.
It didn’t help that teammate Tim Thorman, who was on the JV team, was able to throw his knuckleball (secretly) in a JV game for coach Eric Johnson. Thorman pitched five shutout innings and struck out seven batters, including a three-pitch inning in which thorman threw all knuckleballs.
After graduating high school in 2005, Beard went to Concordia College, Moorhead, alma mater to Washington Nationals catcher Chris Coste, and tried to walk on the baseball team as a knuckleball reliever.
He didn’t make the team, and his dream of pitching his knuckle ball all but died.
Due to recurring shoulder problems, Beard sought a less stressful way to throw his dancing pitches. After breaking numerous wiffleballs in his backyard with his brother, Brian, Nathan started reinforcing wiffleballs with duct tape, making them a little heavier and dramatically increasing the movement of the ball.
After several years of playing “Duct Tape Ball,” Beard discovered a new invention by College Hill Games.
It is called the Blitzball, which is a lightweight plastic baseball that has increased speed and curving action.
Blitzball claims you can hit it 40 percent farther than a normal baseball, which results in moon shots…if you are able to hit it.
With the moving action of the Blitzball, you can throw balls emulating a Chrsity Matthewson screwball, a David Cone slider, a Tim Wakefield knuckleball, a Rip Sewell eephus, or a Jack Morris forkball.
Currently, Nathan is making videos for Blitzball in their 2010 Blitzball Contest.
Joining Nathan's team in the competition are Brian Beard, Jeff Rosenthal, and Kevin O'Keefe.