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The Knuckleball

To continue on with yesterday's baseball pitches theme, today I thought we'd look at the knuckleball, which was on display last night as Boston's famous knuckleball pitcher, Tim Wakefield, was knocked around by the Rays' offense. Outside of Wakefield, there are only a couple other Major League pitchers playing the game today who throw the unusual pitch. This is due in no small part to the level of difficulty not only throwing the ball, but catching it. An MLB.com headline yesterday, before the Boston game started, read: "Boston could be in real trouble if Tim Wakefield's knuckleball isn't fluttering"¦"

Throwing a fluttering, or dancing knuckleball is tremendously difficult because in order to make the ball dip, corkscrew, and flutter, there has to be very little spin of any kind. In fact, it's not unusual for the ball to make less than a couple rotations total before it reaches home plate. Making things even more complicated, the ball is thrown with very little velocity (generally between 55-75 mph). So a bad knuckleball is easy to track and swat out of the park, as happened three times last night. On the other hand, a good knuckleball makes the best batters look like amateurs. So what's the secret to throwing a knuckleball?

bd9d03ba84_cicc.jpgWell, first there's the grip. When the pitch was originally developed by early pioneers like Eddie Cicotte in the beginning of the 20th century, it was thrown by holding the ball with the knuckles. In fact, Cicotte's nickname was "Knuckles." But over time, pitchers started gripping a knuckler with the fingertips, to help prevent the ball from spinning in the air. It's still thrown that way today. Because the ball remains relatively motionless in flight, the air around it becomes turbulent at the ball's seams. This causes the ball to move erratically, fooling the batter and often making him look ridiculous as he swings futilely.

knuckleball.jpgBut the erratic movement of the ball also makes it hard to catch. For this reason, you'll often see the catcher wearing an oversized mitt or even a first-baseman's mitt to catch the ball. You'll even see special players in the game just to prevent the huge number of passed balls that can occur as a result of the flutter. If you remember the 2004 Red Sox, Doug Mirabelli would usually replace Jason Varitek as catcher when Tim Wakefield was on the hill.

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6 New Events Will Debut At This Year’s Winter Olympics in PyeongChang
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It’s that time again! The 2018 Winter Olympic Games will kick off in PyeongChang, South Korea on February 9, and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is adding a handful of new events to the festivities. In 2014, 12 new events—including Men’s and Women’s Ski Half-Pipe and Biathlon Mixed Relay—were added to make the Sochi Games more challenging and exciting. This year, six new events will make their debut in PyeongChang.

Here’s what’s new for 2018: While it started out as an X-Games event, extreme athletes will now get their chance to win gold medals in Men’s and Women’s Snowboard Big Air, which sees competitors performing their best spins and tricks after launching off a large (about 160 feet) ramp. For the first time, the Alpine skiing Nations Team Event will make its debut; the event features mixed teams of two men and two women going head-to-head in a series of downhill slalom races in a best-of-four competition.

Next up, Men’s and Women’s Speed Skating Mass Start features a maximum of 28 athletes in a 16-lap race, where all participants start at the same time with winner-takes-all stakes. Speed Skating Mass Start first appeared during the Lake Placid games in 1932, but has sat out the Winter Olympics in the 85 years since, so it's prepared to make a triumphant return.

Lastly, there's Curling Mixed Doubles. The new event consists of teams of two, a man and a woman, competing in a curling match with eight ends and five stones, instead of the traditional 10 and eight, respectively. In addition, there’s a 22-minute limit to get a team’s stones closest to the center button of the house.

The Opening Ceremony of the XXIII Olympic Winter Games will air on NBC beginning at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on Friday, February 9, 2018.

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Watch These Surfers Crush Nantucket's 'Slurpee' Waves
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Instead of hunkering down with Netflix and hot chocolate during the East Coast’s recent cold snap, surfers Nick Hayden and Jamie Briard spent the first few days of January 2018 conquering icy waves in Nantucket, Massachusetts. The frothy swells resembled a frozen 7-Eleven Slurpee, so photographer Jonathan Nimerfroh, a friend of the athletes, grabbed his camera to capture the phenomenon, according to deMilked.

The freezing point for salt water is 28.4°F, but undulating ocean waves typically move too much for ice particles to form. At Nantucket’s Nobadeer Beach, however, conditions were just right for a thick layer of frost to form atop the water’s surface for several hours. Some of the slushy crests were even surfable before melting after about three hours, Nimerfroh told Live Science.

This is the second time Nimerfroh has photographed so-called “Slurpee waves." He captured a similar scene on February 27, 2015, telling The New York Times, “I saw these crazy half-frozen waves. Usually on a summer day you can hear the waves crashing, but it was absolutely silent. It was like I had earplugs in my ears.”

Check out Nimerfroh’s video of surfers enjoying the icy swell below.

[h/t deMilked]

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