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Dodgers draft pick Knack can keep a secret

Joe Avento • Jun 12, 2020 at 10:59 PM

JOHNSON CITY — Don’t ever play poker with Landon Knack.

The East Tennessee State fireballer acted as surprised as anyone — including family and friends on hand Thursday — when he was selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the second round of the Major League Baseball draft.

In reality, Knack already knew.

The Dodgers had called him the night before, after the first round was complete, and told him to be ready to hear his name called in the second round. The only person Knack told was his girlfriend.

Everybody else was on pins and needles as the second round began Thursday. When he was taken with the 60th overall pick, everybody in the room — Knack included — went crazy.

“I told my girlfriend because she was up,” he said Friday. “I called her immediately to tell her, but I tried to keep it a secret from everybody else. I think people started to know that I knew a little bit, but they just didn’t know who. It was kind of tough, to be honest, to keep it from them.

“I was just so excited that it happened. People went crazy for a bit. It was just unreal. Honestly, it was so fun. I just couldn’t have been any happier.”

Once his named was called to make it official, the party began. Knack said he felt relieved.

Remember, he watched all 40 rounds and 1,217 picks last year hoping in vain to hear his name.

“That was a huge motivator for me, kind of like a little wake-up call that I was good but I wasn’t good enough,” Knack said. “It really changed everything I did. I was really looking to try to get better, to use that kind of anger of not getting drafted last year and kind of use that as a little extra motivation.

“It made a big enough difference to go from undrafted to the second round, which still is crazy for me a little bit, just the turnaround.”

That motivation turned into extra velocity for the right-hander. Knack’s fastball was measured in the mid-90s during his shortened senior season and hit as high as 98 mph. His combination of power and control — one walk vs. 51 strikeouts as a senior — was what made him attractive to pro scouts.

“I realized after last year that 90 to 92 wasn’t going to get it done,” he said. “And that if I wanted to get where I want to get to, I really needed to have a little bit of an uptick.

“The velocity was just me kind of using that little motivation of not getting drafted last year and kind of getting a little pissed off, just trying to throw as hard as I could.”

Knack, who hasn’t signed a contract yet, has no idea where he’ll go to start his career or when that might even happen. The minor leagues are currently on hold and the major league players and owners are bickering over how to start the season that was suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Dodgers have five minor league affiliates: Class AAA Oklahoma City, Class AA Tulsa, Advanced Class A Rancho Cucamonga, Class A Great Lakes and Rookie-level Ogden.

Knack, who grew up in Johnson City and played at Science Hill, became the third-highest draft pick in ETSU history.

“I’ve loved ETSU since I was a little kid, obviously, being a hometown guy,” he said. “I went to all their camps when I was little, so it means a lot to be in a little bit of the history there at ETSU.”

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