When you’ve been as dominant as Blaine Knight, you earn the right to a nickname quickly. With a last name like Knight, there are two logical options.
“[UA pitching coach Wes Johnson] called me the Dark Knight because I came out of the shadows like Batman,” the Hogs junior pitcher says with a laugh. “That has kind of stuck, and some of the fans have worn armor and brought swords to the game. I haven’t seen that, but that’s what I’ve been told.”
The nod to the caped crusader and chivalry is a good try, but it seems that Knight is more like Saline County’s version of Clark Kent. Like Kent, Knight moves about in a mild-mannered unassuming way with a warm smile.
His 6-foot-3 height stands out, but his frame is hardly intimidating carrying 165 pounds. During a December visit dressed in camo, hunter orange and cowboy boots, he looked like just about every other 20-something in his hometown of Bryant.
“I have never had anyone look at me and downgrade me because of my slim build, but I am sure I do surprise people every weekend,” Knight says. “I won’t do that this year, but last year I did. You just don’t see too many guys that are 6-3 weighing 165 pounds who can throw in the upper 90s. I see where the correlation with Clark Kent comes from. He is a typical office worker guy, and then when someone needs him, he puts on a cape, and he does what Superman does.”
Knight’s right arm turns into a cannon when he slips on the uniform with an “A” on his hat. He routinely hits 95 mph on the radar gun. The blazing fastball has attracted heavy attention from Major League Baseball scouts.
Knight finished the 2017 Arkansas campaign with an 8-4 record with a 3.28 ERA (second-lowest on the team) in 90.2 innings. Knight struck out 96 (10th in the SEC) while only walking 20.
His great grandfather Lloyd Heigthman, who played professionally for the Pensacola Flyers, recognized the greatness of his arm while watching him throw. Even when he was one of the smallest players on the team, his little right arm served up heat that set batters down and kept him in high demand with travel team coaches.
It was up to his dad, Blake, who played at Southern Arkansas, to manage the gift to keep the arm from getting worn out before Knight’s career took off.
“When you have a special guy like that, everybody wants them and everybody wants them to pitch,” Blake Knight said. “Then, it is a job as a dad and a coach to hone that because you have only got so many bullets in the gun. There were people from all over the place who asked us if Blaine could come pitch for them, and it was really hard as a dad/coach to let him be trained or play for anybody else, because nobody loved his arm as much as I did.”
By the time Knight reached Bryant High School, legendary former Hornets Coach Kirk Bock had him give up shortstop and concentrate solely on pitching.
The move paid off, as Knight was 11-0 as a junior with a .49 ERA, leading Bryant to the state title. Knight left Bryant with two state titles and a Louisville Slugger first-team All-American honor.
After making 17 appearances as a UA freshman, both starting and relief, Knight was one of the more dominant SEC starters as a sophomore. With many scouts hanging around Baum Stadium, it looked as though Knight may skip his junior year. The Texas Rangers made Knight the 884th pick in the 29th round. Knight decided to return to try to lead the Hogs to the College World Series and increase his draft stock.
As important as baseball has been in the Knight home, Blake Knight and his wife, Karen, have raised their boys to be respectful and responsible. Knight visits Collegeville Elementary School in Bryant, where Karen is on staff, and is a hit amongst the teachers and students. He also does other volunteer work in Fayetteville.
“I love the city of Bryant,” Knight says. “I love Saline County. I have had a lot of support from this county being [at Arkansas]. For them having my back, I am always going to have theirs. I am going to do everything I can to support them and help anybody I can.”
His parents have also taught him to be faithful. The Bible verse Philippians 4:13 is written on the bill of his cap where he sees it every time he takes the mound. He may have a super left arm, but it is a higher power that has and will guide Knight through baseball stardom.
“God’s brought me a long way,” Knight says. “I’ve always had a good arm, but nobody ever counted on me getting where I am. I am a small-town kid from Bryant, Arkansas. I put my faith in God. He’s the one who has gotten me this far and has kept me healthy. He has a plan for me, whether it’s playing another year at Arkansas or playing pro ball. I trust the road I am going down. I don’t see the light at the end of the road yet, but it ain’t far off.”