Andy Sonnanstine is one of the most interesting people to have ever donned a Tampa Bay Rays uniform. In his second major league start, he struck out 10 Marlins -- including seven in a row, which at the time was a franchise record -- however, strikeouts were never a huge part of his game.
Sonnanstine became a member of folk lore after a Joe Maddon brain lapse placed Sonnanstine in the starting lineup over Evan Longoria. It was unfathomable at the time, but Sonnanstine came through and collected a double over three plate appearances.
During the Rays first visit to the post season, Sonnanstine delivered the victory that propelled the Rays to the American League Championship Series.
Unfortunately for Sonnanstine, 2008 was the high point of his major league career as his control abandoned him. He would have a memorable moment during the 2010 American League Division Series against the Texas Rangers where he mimicked the Rangers faithful moose antlers as the Rays took two straight games in Arlington, but was not memorable for his pitching.
However, off the field, Sonnanstine was always golden. He introduced a Ping-Pong table to the clubhouse at some point during his career and proceeded to make anyone who dared oppose him look foolish. During the 2011 season, he actually co-wrote a Tampa Bay Rays trivia book, "Tampa Bay Rays IQ: The Ultimate Test of True Fandom." During spring training, Sonnanstine lends his voice to the Rays radio team with Neil Solondz, as they teamed up to cover the games.
Now, Sonnanstine is working on returning to the major leagues, via the age old pitch for aged baseball players: the Knuckleball.
He has embarked on a well trodden path, attempting to do so like many before him, including a couple current members of the Rays organization (Jeff Howell and Eddie Gamboa).
The Rays introduced a new plan this past off-season to try and incorporate the knuckle ball to their pitching staff as former player Charlie Haegar was brought in as a minor league pitching coordinator, specifically for the task of helping hurlers learn the difficult pitch.
Sonnanstine is now giving it his all, inspired by fellow Rays legend Dan Johnson, who came out of nowhere in spring training to announce he would try to resurrect his career as a knuckle ball pitcher. Unfortunately that dream didn't last long with the Rays as he was released prior to the season. However, he has since signed with an Independent League team and is making progress there.
We do not know the current status of Sonnanstine's comeback, but the Rays will surely be interested. Bill Chastain broke the story and has plenty of quotes from Sonnantine in his article.
Good luck to Andy and we hope he will be as successful in this venture as he has been in his numerous other exploits.