WASHINGTON – The baseball season is over for Lucas Knowles, a lefty pitching prospect in the Nationals’ farm system.
But another sport – golf – has been a big part of his life and that continues to be the case.
“I grew up on the game,” he told Federal Baseball on Monday, noting that his father, Mark Knowles, is a golf pro.
Knowles spent most of this season at Single-A Fredericksburg, where he was used both as a starter and reliever.
A few days after the season was over, he began the drive from Virginia to his home in Washington state.
But first he met his father, a golf pro, in Wisconsin as they watched a round of the Ryder Cup on Friday. They then headed home to Washington and they were playing golf there Monday when Knowles took a few minutes for an interview.
“It was an unbelievable atmosphere, with everyone chanting U-S-A,” he said of the Ryder Cup.
What does his off-season look like?
“I am going to be playing a lot of golf; I am going to be coaching some junior high basketball,” Knowles said.
Knowles, 23, was a walk-on as a freshman at the University of Washington and them became a Friday starter as a sophomore.
But after two years there, he transferred to a junior college in Arizona. After winning a national title there, he was drafted by the Nationals in the 14th round in 2019.
“I just talked to about every team. The Nationals did stick out big-time,” he said.
“The guy that drafted me, Mitch Sokol, is a fantastic guy and we hit it off and got to know each other right off the get-go. I couldn’t be happier that with the Nationals.”
Knowles was part of the first season at the new stadium in Fredericksburg, and the team sold out more than half of its home dates.
“It was a really specific atmosphere; the only thing I can compare it to was playing in Omaha,” said Knowles, who went to the College World Series while at Washington in 2018.
“The fans and the community were so accepting, even though we did struggle quite a bit,” said Knowles, noting Fredericksburg lost its first 15 games. “I closed in the game we got our first win and that was place was rocking as any place I have played in. The fans really made it that way; they were awesome and that stadium was fantastic.”
“I like starting the best. Honestly any time I am on the mound is where I want to be,” he said.
“I have no preference.”
Knowles, who throws a 95 MPH fastball, began the year with Fredericksburg out of the bullpen. After starting a few games, he had a minor strain in his oblique that caused him to miss about two months.
“That kind of put a damper on the season,” said Knowles, who was part of two Instructional League seasons in the past.
He saw time with the Florida Complex League team before heading back to Virginia.
“It is absolutely miserable to lose that many games,” Knowles said.
“Anybody that gets to professional baseball is a very competitive person. Getting whipped every night is not fun. It was like getting back to the grindstone” after no season in 2020.
He was 1-0 with an ERA of 5.40 in three games in Florida and 3-1, 4.06 in 14 games with three starts for Fredericksburg, with the one save.
Knowles spent 2019 between the Gulf Coast League and Auburn in the New York-Penn League.
“I thought I finished well; I just got into mid-season form a little too late,” he said of 2021. “Missing half of the season with an injury is not fun. My fastball got better throughout the year; I think I need to work on everything. I’m a competitor and I don’t think that will ever change.”
Fredericksburg pitching coach Pat Rice was let go by the Nationals earlier this month.
“I loved Pat; I really, really enjoyed Pat. He is someone I will continue to talk to in the future and he helped me get a lot better this year. It is a business; I was bummed out to hear that,” Knowles said.