GSA Spotlight: Campbell's Grant Knipp

Photo credit: Simon Barbre / Campbell Athletics

As of this past Oct. 6, Grant Knipp hadn’t pitched in nearly six years. Less than one week later, he was firing 98 mph fastballs during Campbell's scout day.


Is that real?

How did that happen?

Knipp’s story is so crazy that scouts don’t know where to draft him – as a power-hitting catcher who is batting .445 with 16 homers, 41 RBIs and a ridiculous 1.716 OPS in 24 games … or as a pitcher who throws filthy smoke toward the plate.

“Scouts have asked me, ‘If the draft were today, would I draft Grant as a bat or an arm?’” Campbell pitching coach Dusty White said of Knipp, a righthanded hitter/thrower. “I say, ‘It’s a good thing that the draft isn’t today, and it’s a good thing I don’t have to make that decision.’

“But I also tell scouts that Grant is a safe pick. Draft him as a hitter/pitcher, and see which (facet) sticks out.

“You can’t go wrong either way.”

Knipp, a powerfully built 6-3, 230-pounder, said scouts encouraged him before the season, saying he should play so well that it would be hard for any team to pass on him.

More recently, scouts have offered mixed messages as to how they view Knipp.

“One scout asked if I had ever played the outfield,” Knipp said. “Another scout asked for photos of my pitch grips. He said there could be ‘real money’ in pitching for me.”

In essence, Knipp had his breakout party on Feb. 22 in an 8-7 win over East Carolina, which was ranked No. 11 in the nation at the time. Knipp slugged a homer, drove in four runs and pitched one scoreless inning for his first collegiate save.

Interviewed after the game, Knipp joked: “I’m the Shohei Ohtani of college baseball.”

Picking up on the gag, his teammates still call him “Shohei” or “Ohtani” to this day.

As for his back story, Knipp, a 22-year-old Louisville native, was a hitter/pitcher up until his sophomore year of high school.

That’s when he committed to Alabama as a catcher, and the decision was made to stop pitching due to the injury risk.

But while his mound work ended at that time, Knipp’s pitching dream never completely died.

“I always knew he loved pitching,” said Knipp’s father, Terry. “He would always talk about pitchers getting drafted high because of how hard they throw.”

Knipp didn’t play as an Alabama true freshman in 2021, taking a redshirt year.

But after his catching coach, Brock Bennett, bolted for Georgia, Knipp entered the transfer portal.

That’s when Campbell entered the picture. Catching coach Tyler Shewmaker did the heavy lifting, landing Knipp for the Camels in the summer of 2021.

Just a few weeks later, however, Shewmaker bolted for Vanderbilt. Not wanting to lose his new recruit, Camels head coach Justin Haire immediately called Knipp.

“Grant was nervous,” Haire said. “He said, ‘Shew’ is my guy.’

“I assured Grant that we would bring in a top catching coach.”

Haire kept his promise, bringing in Joey Holcomb, who later left for South Carolina.

“I guess I’m churning out assistants for the SEC,” Haire joked.

Haire, a former college catcher at Bowling Green and at Indianapolis, took over as Campbell’s backstop coach.

As a redshirt freshman for the Camels in 2022, Knipp hit .271 with four homers, 16 RBIs and an .837 OPS in 22 games, including 16 starts. Knipp would’ve played more, but he was sidelined by a hand injury.

Last year, Knipp played 55 games, including 53 starts at catcher. He hit .278 with 13 homers, 55 RBIs and a .986 OPS.

“Grant caught our last 39 games in a row last year,” Haire said. “The more he played, the better he got.

“He didn’t play as a high school senior due to COVID, and then he sat out (2021 as an Alabama redshirt). He just needed to play.”

All of that led to this past Oct. 6, when the Camels were playing an intrasquad game.

Knipp was rotating between the field and the bullpen, where he was helping pitchers warm up and prepare for mound work.

Suddenly, Knipp climbed on the mound, curious to see how hard he could throw.

“I was thinking I could throw 85,” Knipp said. “But my first pitch was 90, and I hadn’t even ramped up yet.

“After three more pitches, I got up to 94. I told a couple of my teammates in the dugout, and they said, ‘No way.’

“When I rotated back to the bullpen, I threw as hard as 95.8. I ran over to (pitching coach White) and said: ‘When’s my next bullpen session?’”

That weekend, there was a lot of discussion on the Camels coaches’ group texts. In general, the position coaches wanted to keep Knipp as a catcher … while the pitching instructors were more than willing to let this play out on the mound.

The following Monday, White waited until Knipp finished hitting before asking him a key question.

White: “Do you want to throw off the mound?

Knipp (rhetorically): “Are you serious?”

Two days later, Knipp threw 98 mph in front of about 40 scouts, and it’s been a whirlwind ever since.

Knipp, who had been out since March 23 due to a left hamstring injury, returned to the lineup this past Friday, and – amazingly -- he homered in his first game back.

On Saturday, however, Knipp was hit by a pitch – struck on his helmet – and he sat out Sunday’s game.

Hopefully Knipp can return on Tuesday when the Camels (25-13) play host to Duke.

In the meantime, there is this to consider: In four relief appearances this year, Knipp is 0-0 with a 1.59 ERA and two saves. He has struck out six batters and allowed six hits and one walk in 5 2/3 innings.

Knipp, who is set to graduate in May with a Bachelor’s degree in Sports Management, is more than just a hard thrower on the mound.

Besides his fastball and a changeup that he is still getting a feel for, Knipp throws an impressive curve.

“It’s not a true 12-to-6, but it’s not far from it,’ White said. “He can land it for strikes, and he can bury it below the zone for strikeouts.

“His spin rate is 2500 to 2700. Not many guys who are new to college pitching have Grant’s ability to spin a baseball.”

At the plate, Knipp has massive power.

For example, in a 20-5 win over Bucknell on March 10, Knipp slugged three homers. On one of those shots, Knipp crushed it so hard that he ran back into the dugout to check the “TrackMan” technology to see the distance.

“I think it went 500 feet, but it didn’t get recorded,” Knipp said. “It hit the fence on our back field.

“The wind was blowing out, and I know the exit velocity was 112 mph.”

White was asked if he has a nickname for Knipp.

“Best player in college baseball,” White shot back.

“It’s pretty freaky,” White said. “Baseball shouldn’t be this easy. But, for Grant, it is.”

So … does Knipp prefer catching, hitting or pitching?

“It’s hard to say,” Knipp said. “But throwing 98 is kind of fun.” is your online home for college baseball scores, schedules, standings, statistics, analysis, features, podcasts and prospect coverage.