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Ole Miss commit Josh Knoth of Patchogue-Medford pushes through adversity

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By Vinny Messana

Long Island is a pitching-rich region, and right now there is nobody that possesses more talent and current pedigree than Josh Knoth.

This spring, he won the Carl Yastrzemski Award, given to the top player in Suffolk County. Since then, he has appeared in the Area Code Games, East Coast Pro, the PG All-American Game, Baseball Factory All-American Game and the MLB/USA All-American Game.

Knoth is projected to be a third-round pick in the next MLB Draft, but with an outside shot to go earlier if he matches or exceeds his 2022 season. He also signed his national letter of intent with the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) — one of the top programs in the country.

But despite all the attention and success he has garnered, it was still a bittersweet year for the flame-thrower.

Right after capturing the Yastrzemski Award, his father Karl was rushed to the hospital while coaching a little league game. He had suffered a stroke and a brain aneurysm, and needed to undergo some risky procedures and is rather lucky to be alive. He then also battled through COVID-19.

Knoth’s dad is back home now and is getting eased back to full health.

With such a promising future and important season coming up for Josh, it’s understandable if he found it difficult to focus at times during the past few months. Knoth has been forced to develop a mental toughness and a resiliency that is exceptionally rare for a young athlete.

I had a chance to speak with him and here’s what he had to say…

2022 was a remarkable season for you, but you also dealt with some personal challenges. Looking back on it now, how would you put into words what June was like for you?

Looking back, June for me was supposed to be a really good start to the summer with traveling and starting my circuit around the country, but unfortunately the biggest challenge I’ve had to overcome happened. My dad had a stroke and brain aneurysm, which led him to be in the hospital all summer, he just made it back home mid September. My dad was supposed to be traveling with me by my side all summer supporting me. This couldn’t happen though because two weeks after his stroke, I had to leave to go perform in one of the top events of the year (PDP). Going away was tough because I knew he was going to be having surgeries while I was away for 11 days, but I knew it had to be done because it’s what he would have wanted. Overall, June was a really hard month for my family and I, but it gave me a new sense of motivation for the rest of the summer to make my dad proud.

You’ve dominated hitters from all over the country. Has it sunk in yet that you have a shot to be a first round draft pick? How are you making yourself stay focused for the season?

Being able to play against the best players in my class was very eye-opening for me. It showed me my strengths and also what I needed to work on. It’s been really exciting getting to talk to the different teams and scouts, and learning more about how the draft works. Right now though, my focus is on getting stronger and ready for the spring season and playing with my team. Hitting the gym, learning better nutrition, and training daily are a few things I’m doing to help that.

What has been your biggest thrill on a baseball field — the perfect game or dominating at a national event?

Although the perfect game in my school season was a huge thrill, I’d say being around all the talented players I played with this summer and competing in the top events, while also creating new relationships with kids I meet from all over the country was the biggest thrill. Playing in four big league stadiums this summer was also a really surreal experience.

Who are some people that you’ve trusted as your career has progressed?

When it comes to people I’ve trusted over my career, these are a few names that come to mind: my high school coaches, Anthony Frascogna and John Fren; my summer ball coaches Ryan Pembroke and Eric Reichenbach; my trainer Russell Taveras; and my pitching coach John DeRouin. All of these people have helped me tremendously over the months/years that I’ve been with them.

What are you looking to work on this offseason?

I am really working on being more explosive and gaining size/strength, while keeping my mobility. For pitching, I am working on staying in my legs more and opening up my hips so I stay on top of my fastball and not throwing across my body.

Any goals for 2023?

For the 2023 season, I’m just going to try to compete and do what I did last year, while also improving on little things like my velocity and adding a changeup into my repertoire.

Vinny Messana, the author of this story, is the president of Axcess Baseball. He is a 2013 graduate of Adelphi University and is the Long Island area scout for the San Diego Padres.

Top photo: Facebook