Junior Ben Knauer Shows Passion for Sports, Battles Cerebral Palsy


By Weston Lazarus

Junior Ben Knauer grew up playing baseball and discussing the Giants line-up on the blacktop during recess. He knew every player’s stats, from home runs to on-base percentages, and as a high schooler he is passionate about two things: umpiring and football. Knauer is an umpire for the Mill Valley Little League and in a good season of umpiring he will work anywhere from 30 to 40 games in a season.

Knauer was born with a condition called cerebral palsy. He described it by saying, “the left side of my body is weaker than the right.” Fortunately, Knauer said that his condition doesn’t slow him down.

Knauer never whined or cried about it. In fourth grade he picked up baseball after convincing his parents to let him play. He was on the New York  Mets. “I played every game, got at least two at bats but I could never get a hit, it was killing me,” he said. “But in the last game of the season I came up and made contact. It wasn’t a home run or a single up the middle – I rolled it two feet from the catcher – but I busted my ass down the line and beat it out for a hit.” To this day, this game is still one of his favorite memories.The following season Knauer played for the Red Sox in the next league up. ”I didn’t get a hit all year, but I loved being a part of something a part of the team.,” he said.

When Knauer was in Little League, he was hitting and current Tam junior Will Coomber was pitching. Coomber hit Knauer right in the helmet. Knauer went down and the coaches and some players came running out. He just got right up and jogged to first base, saying, “That will help my on-base percentage.”

The following year Knauer stopped playing baseball and moved into umpiring, because baseball was too demanding on his body. “If the cerebral palsy doesn’t let me play baseball, I had to still be a part of the game. Umpiring was the next best option,” he said. Knauer began to umpire games when he was 12, and is now 17.

All new umpires must take a training class, and this year the head umpire called Knauer and asked him if he could help teach the class. “It is a great honor to be able to teach the thing I love,” Knauer said. He works at Boyle Park umpiring 12 to 13 year old Little League baseball, sometimes every day of the week. Knauer stated that he really enjoys knowing all of the rules and learning something new every day just from reading the rulebook. One might imagine that his cerebral palsy would slow him down from time to time, when he runs from base to base to make a safe or out call. “I make the best of it, I do what I can do,” he said. Knauer is trying to join the district of umpires, so one day he can hopefully umpire in the Little League World Series, and from there he wants to go pro. “I want this to be my job,” he said.

Knauer is also passionate about is football. It started in eighth grade when he was sitting at home watching football, and asked his dad if he could play. His dad said he could start next year for the freshman team. “I love the sport and I love team sports, I really like being a part of a team,” he said. What Knauer hates most about football is having to be taken out of the drills. ”How else can I prove to the coaches to put me in if they don’t let me try?” he said. During a drill that was meant to be run at 75 percent speed Knauer came running through the line to tackle the running back. When the coach asked him what he was doing, Knauer replied, “Coach, I only have one speed, and that’s 100 percent.” Coach Black was speechless.

“I love having Ben on the team,” said junior Marcus Viscardi. “He provides a sense of inspiration, because I know if he didn’t have Cerebral Palsy he would be a great football player because of his heart; it makes the team better when he’s there.”

This spring Knauer is already out on the field for spring practice, doing everything he can to help improve the team.  “Everything happens for a reason,” he said. “I didn’t want cerebral palsy, but it wasn’t my choice, so I’m going to live with it.”