It takes some baseball players years to understand the flight of a knuckleball. Toronto Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia, who hopes to be the backstop for knuckleballer R.A. Dickey this year, doesn't have the luxury of time.
So Arencibia has gone to extreme lengths in an attempt to force himself to learn how to catch a knuckleball. As Chris Jones writes in ESPN The Magazine, Arencibia has ditched much of his normal equipment when he catches Dickey. That includes his shin guards and chest protector, and yes, his cup.
Arencibia has sometimes been labeled a defensive liability, and when they signed Dickey, the Blue Jays brought in Dickey's former Mets catchers Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas as a sort of insurance policy. The message was not lost on Arencibia.
"I don't want to miss every fifth game," Arencibia told Jones. "It also makes you really, really concentrate."
So Arencibia has been through a crash course in the knuckleball, and during the past few weeks he's picked up a thing or two.
"It's like a butterfly, a fast butterfly," Arencibia said of Dickey's signature pitch. "You really just have to let it come to you."
And by "come to you," we take it that Arencibia means come to your catcher's mitt.