Former high school star Chad Knight using summer baseball league to ignite career at Duke

Baseball always came fairly easy to Chad Knight.

The Westport native and Staples graduate was always the best player on every team he was a part of, from playing in the Little league World Series to winning the CIAC Class LL State Championship his senior season.

Now, as he plays summer ball for the Bristol Blues of the New England Collegiate Baseball League in between his sophomore and junior years at Duke, Knight is facing new obstacles.

Knight, a catcher, has been trying to establish himself in college. He played in 11 games as a freshman during the COVD-shortened 2020 season and appeared in 35 games this season for Duke (33-22).

While he started 28 games — including some against key Atlantic Coast Conference opponents — he was primarily DH. Knight hit .267 with two home runs and 15 RBI.

“I’ll be the first to tell you, it has been challenging and that is something new for me,” Knight said. “Playing in college is full of peaks and valleys. It’s the first time I had really experienced that before in baseball. As a kid I kind of just had peaks and the valleys were just lower peaks.

“It is challenging to sit a bunch of games and then get an opportunity and feel like everything is riding on that. It’s a huge metal hurdle to overcome and definitely tests your character. Luckily, I have supportive teammates and coaches at Duke.”

This season, Knight was partially slowed down by a 45-man roster for the Blue Devils as COVID-19 changed the number of players allowed on every team. With fifth-year players on every roster, playing time even harder to come by.

Knight is listed on the roster as a catcher, but he saw some playing time at first base when he was not a DH.

Not helping his playing time was the fact Knight was behind four-year starting catcher Michael Rothenberg, who earlier this week was drafted in the 12th round of the MLB Draft by the Detroit Tigers.

Next season, Knight, who was the GameTimeCT MVP in 2019, should be one of the top contenders for the starting catching job.

Knight did not begin catching until his senior season at Staples, primarily pitching and DHing when not on the mound.

He is spending this summer in Bristol working toward the starting spot in Durham.

“The first thing I am trying to improve is my defense as a catcher,” Knight said. “I am hoping to push for the starting job next year at Duke so I am focused this summer on getting more reps and working on my blocking and receiving.

“Offensively, I am working on decreasing my strikeouts and increasing my walks. I have had to learn to face more challenging pitchers every game.”

Knight has one home run and leads Bristol with 18 RBI this summer.

Though he had an opportunity to play for Cotuit in the Cape Cod League, the guarantee of playing time in the NECBL appealed to him, as did playing closer to home.

“The Blues told me if I came I would play and be able to catch,” Knight said. “It’s tougher to develop never knowing if you are starting or sitting game to game. Cotuit had a few other catchers and there were no guarantees I’d play. It’s great being here, facing great competition and getting more reps. The more reps the merrier.”

The Blues season runs through August 1 with the team playing home games at legendary Muzzy Field.

Sericson

@stamfordadvocate.com; @EricsonSports