BILLINGS — In the two weeks that have passed since his World Series assignment, Helena native and Major League Baseball umpire Brian Knight has had the chance to decompress and take stock of what he says was the culmination of what feels like a lifetime of professional work.
The 49-year-old Knight, a 1993 Helena Capital graduate, was selected by MLB as a member of the umpiring crew working the World Series between the Texas Rangers and Arizona Diamondbacks.
He was behind the plate calling balls and strikes for the Game-5 clincher when the Rangers won the first championship in franchise history. Knight’s called third strike on the Diamondbacks’ Ketel Marte ended the game, the series and the 2023 season.
Looking back, Knight’s selection to the World Series was recognition that he’ll never take for granted.
“It doesn’t get any better than that,” Knight told MTN Sports. “That’s the call you’re always hoping you’ll get, but you’re never quite sure. It’s never guaranteed. And so it was very, very much an honor and a privilege to be included. That meant everything.”
This past season was, officially, Knight’s 15th as a big-league umpire and his 13th consecutive. His performance throughout the year was enough for him to also earn an American League Division Series assignment. That came on the heels of him being picked to work the National League Championship Series in 2022, as well as division series in 2014 and 2015 and a wild card game in 2013.
But the World Series was the summit — and a long way from Knight’s humble beginnings at the Brinkman/Froemming Umpire School in Florida and his toils in the minors, beginning in the Pioneer League in 1995.
Knight worked Game 5 of the World Series at Chase Field in Phoenix in front of family and friends — and with his late father Jim on his mind. Jim Knight passed away in 2021 but his name remains prominent in Helena because of his impact as an umpire and official in and around Montana.
Knight said his dad “was my biggest fan and he never missed a game. He really would have loved the whole experience of being at the World Series. If I started thinking too much about that it would have been tough on me. So I just tried to not dwell on it too much because I would have made me very sad.
“I tried to go out and be as focused as I could be and try not to let him down. That was kind of my mindset. Although he’s not here to watch I can still make him proud. That’s the mindset I took.”
With respect to his Game 5 performance, Knight said he came away feeling good about how it all went. Of the 54 combined outs, 19 were strikeouts. Of those, six were called third strikes by Knight.
Knight said he was 99.9% sure the final out — Josh Sborz’s punchout of Marte — was the correct call. There was no question about it afterward.
“I wanted to perform at a high level. I wanted to go out there and not miss a single pitch. That was my goal. That very rarely happens,” Knight offered. “Having said that, I felt like I had a really good game.
“I wasn't too concerned at the moment with my performance because everything was going pretty smooth. I was seeing everything really well. And I wasn't getting any complaints, so that's always a good sign.”
Now that Knight has checked the World Series off his professional to-do list, he’s pretty much done it all in Major League Baseball. Knight worked the 2012 All-Star Game in Kansas City, and has been on the field for four no-hitters including two behind the plate — for Boston’s John Lester against the Royals on May 19, 2008, and for the Dodgers’ Josh Beckett against the Phillies on May 25, 2014.
Nevertheless, Knight remains focused on what's next.
“My motivation is where it always is,” he said. “If I’m going to continue to do this at the major league level I want to continue to be very, very good at it. That includes a lot of physical therapy on my neck to keep myself ready, and keeping myself ready physically throughout the course of the winter.
“I still want to be really good at his job, and if I’m going to walk out onto a major league field I want to be the best I can be. That’s where the motivation is, to not rest on any kind of laurels that working the World Series might have given me. The game deserves good umpiring and I want to be a part of that.”