Granite Bay’s Andrew Knapp back in Sacramento with River Cats

10

Catcher Andrew Knapp walks to the dugout during a game against the Washington Nationals on Saturday, April 16, 2022. Knapp, a Granite Bay native, is now with the Sacramento River Cats.

Catcher Andrew Knapp walks to the dugout during a game against the Washington Nationals on Saturday, April 16, 2022. Knapp, a Granite Bay native, is now with the Sacramento River Cats.

AP

Andrew Knapp spent a lot of his earliest years around baseball. His dad, Mike, a journeyman minor-leaguer from 1986 to 1996, kept his son around fields and clubhouses, traveling to some 35 states before he was 5 years old.

Hanging around skilled ball players became old hat by the point Andrew went to his first major league game at Candlestick Park to see the Giants play the Recent York Mets in the course of the 1999 season. Mike was friends with former Giant and Sacramento-area native F.P. Santangelo and Mets pitcher Rick Reed was a former roommate, so the Knapps were allowed on the sector before the sport.

Andrew, who was 8 on the time, and his brother, Aaron, weren’t all that impressed given what number of baseball fields and clubhouses they’d already seen.

“The funny thing about it, we’re sitting right behind home plate,” Mike Knapp said in a recent phone interview. “Each my boys, the thing that they desired to do essentially the most was to go to the very top deck so that they could see the entire bay and rise up to the best point and see the stadium from that perspective, which was actually pretty funny.

“A child who grew up on the sector was like, ‘Yeah, I’ve been on the sector before, I need to get to the high seats.’”

That game helped spark Andrew’s fandom. And a few 23 years later, he’s a member of the Giants organization playing catcher for the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats. He plays his home games at Sutter Health Park, a brief drive west from where he grew up in Granite Bay.

“Sometimes you don’t know for those who’re going to get a chance for the team you cheered for as a young kid,” he told the Bee. “So I used to be really excited to be back in Sac, but mostly just with the Giants.”

Knapp, a switch-hitting catcher, signed with the organization July 22. It’s his fourth team since April after first breaking into the majors with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2017. He initially joined Philadelphia as a second-round pick within the 2013 draft following two seasons at Cal. He was affectionately known by Phillies fans as the most effective backup catcher in baseball. He eventually played behind Silver Slugger winner and three-time All-Star J.T. Realmuto.

Knapp’s best season got here in the course of the pandemic-shortened 2020. He slashed .278/.404/.444 with an .849 OPS that ranked eighth amongst catchers with at the very least 50 plate appearances. But Knapp was unable to duplicate that production within the batters box as his batting average fell to .152 in 2021.

Philadelphia granted him free agency last fall and he signed with the Reds, was released in April, joined the Pirates and later the Mariners for brief big-league stints before landing with the Giants.

Knapp’s currently playing well with the River Cats in an on a regular basis role. He was named the Pacific Coast League player of the week for July 25 through 31 when he went 9-for-20 with 4 home runs. But his name stays off the Major League team’s 40-man roster. Perhaps he’d get promoted if Joey Bart or Austin Wynns needed to miss time with an injury. Fellow catcher Ford Proctor, also with the River Cats, does have a spot on the 40-man roster.

Getting five to 6 starts every week with Sacramento has allowed Knapp to get more comfortable on the plate, he said, noting his production fell during his last Phillies season largely as a result of inconsistent playing time.

“Any time he got regular at-bats in Philly, he performed and hit and did his thing,” Mike, his father, said. “It’s really tough to take a seat on the bench for every week and then you definitely get to face (Jacob) DeGrom. That’s a troublesome job for any individual that’s playing day by day.”

The silver lining: Andrew returned to where he grew up within the Sacramento area. He gets to live in his offseason home in El Dorado Hills where he, his wife, Hannah, and his 1-year-old son, Brady, have settled down. His brother, Aaron, also recently moved back after a four-year minor league profession. Plus his parents get to recurrently attend his games after he spent most of his profession on the East Coast.

It first became apparent Knapp had a future in baseball while playing for Pat Esposito at Granite Bay High School. His junior season he hit .500 with six home runs and 37 RBIs to earn MaxPreps Junior player of the yr, Sierra Foothill League MVP and All-Metro honors.

“I remember watching Andrew as an 11-year-old play All-Stars with a bunch of 12-year-olds, and give you the option to hit left-handed and right-handed and hit home runs,” Esposito said. “We don’t have very many guys in our 27 years at this school hit .500.”

Knapp, now 30, is hoping one other major league opportunity awaits either with the Giants or elsewhere.

Until then, the challenge is maintain a level head within the minors. Now not does Knapp benefit from the vast advantages of being with a giant league team like a drastically higher salary, luxurious hotels, meals, chartered flights and swanky clubhouses. As an alternative, he’s back to flying to smaller cities on industrial flights and staying in run-of-the-mill hotels. All while making a fraction of what he used to, though he made $4.36 million within the majors, in keeping with Baseball Reference. He’s slated totally free agency after the season.

“I’m form of just taking it for what it’s. It’s really fun getting more playing time,” Knapp said. “I used to be a backup in Philly my whole profession there, behind certainly one of the blokes who catches essentially the most out of anyone in baseball. So having the ability to get regular at-bats has definitely been fun. I feel rather a lot more like myself on the plate. But, just meeting recent people, and form of seeing how their organizations do things and what they value has been pretty cool.”

Fortunately for Knapp, he has his father as a sounding board. Mike played for 11 different teams at various levels throughout an expert baseball profession that never included a visit to the Major Leagues. Mike played in systems for the Angels, Cubs, Royals, Reds, Orioles and Mariners, but never got higher than Triple-A, where he spent parts of seven seasons.

“I believe the most important thing there, all you possibly can really control is what he does,” Mike said of Andrew. “You possibly can’t control other people’s decision making, you possibly can’t control what the front office is pondering. You actually can’t control how decisions are made outside of yourself, mainly. So it’s keeping yourself ready, keeping yourself in the most effective shape you’re in and the most effective mental place you possibly can be.”

For Mike, who has spent his post-baseball profession working in tech, spending 11 seasons toiling the minor leagues was a grind throughout his 20s and into his 30s. But seeing his son make it to baseball’s highest level with the Phillies, Pirates and Mariners gave him a refreshed perspective.

“It was the most effective. It was incredible,” he said of Andrew’s major league debut. “It was certainly one of those moments where I used to be capable of step back and go, ‘okay, if for whatever reason I didn’t get to the large leagues was a part of the journey for him to get there, then it was price every second.”

Chris Biderman has covered the 49ers since 2013 and commenced covering the team for The Sacramento Bee in August 2018. He previously frolicked with the Associated Press and USA TODAY Sports Media Group. A Santa Rosa native, he graduated with a level in journalism from The Ohio State University.