The Toronto Blue Jays continue to stock pile knuckleball pitchers in their organization, in addition to R.A. Dickey, and Tomo Ohka, the Jays have now signed Frank Viola III to a minor league contract. Frank Viola III is the son of former Cy Young Winner and current Mets minor league pitching coach in AAA Las Vegas, Frank Viola Jr.
Viola III, now 29 years old, was drafted back in 2004 in the 29th round by the Chicago White Sox. And has only pitched in 3 separate seasons in the minor leagues since then. Like many knuckleballers, Viola discovered the pitch after facing a lot of adversity and struggle. As MLB.com’s Anth0ny DiComo reported back in 2012, Viola’s struggles began in 2006 when he blew out his elbow and was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery. He returned to pitch his 2nd season in the minors in 2007, however a knee injury would later cause another set back to his minor league career.
Viola would pitch once more in 2010 in independent AA ball for the St. Paul Saints. DiComo reports that Viola would have major league tryouts since 2010, but nobody would notice his stuff. That is when he discovered the knuckleball, at 27 years old in 2011. Viola III began learning the knuckleball under the advisory and mentorship of the legendary hall of fame knuckleballer, Phil Niekro, and then Mets’ knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.
Fast foward 3 years later, and now as fate would have it, Frank Viola III is reconnected with his mentor, R.A. Dickey in the Toronto Blue Jays franchise.
Sportsnet’s Jamie Campbell reported the news yesterday:
— Jamie Campbell (@SportsnetJamie) March 4, 2014
Frank Viola III announced his signing via his twitter.
— Frank Viola (@FrankViola3) March 5, 2014
Frank Viola III himself has uploaded (on Youtube) videos of himself throwing his knuckleball in bullpen sessions. Here is one where he is working with his father and Hall of Famer, Burt Blyleven.