A Fond Farewell to R.A. Dickey

ra-dickey

 

I’ve heard a lot of people criticize R.A. Dickey‘s four-year long tenure as a Blue Jay. He himself referred to his first few seasons in Toronto as ‘stinky’. Not nearly enough people have mentioned the abundance of good things about him.

 

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There are so many words I could use to describe Dickey – although he’d probably have better ones.
I’ve liked the guy ever since I first heard him give an interview. Respected him ever since I found out about his charity work. But it wasn’t until I read his book this past winter that I realized just how much we had in common.

 

I know players are human, and I’d like to think I do a better job of remembering that than most people. But there is never a pitcher who has looked more human, more vulnerable standing out there on the mound, than Dickey. Maybe this is because I haven’t read the autobiographies of other pitchers, and they haven’t made me cry repeatedly. Maybe it’s because he has a soft-spoken, almost gentle way of going about things that so sharply contrasts with his more aggressive, energetic peers (looking at you, Jason Grilli).

 

I was so incredibly happy to see him celebrate when the team clinched the division in 2015, and again after they won the ALDS, knowing how far he’d come and how much he’d been through to reach this point. Seeing a smile on his face brought an even bigger one to mine.

 


 

It was a little bittersweet this year when they reached the playoffs again but he was left off the roster. In typically stoic Dickey fashion, he said he understood that it wasn’t his decision, but that didn’t ‘ steal away the joy that comes from being on a club that’s fighting for a championship’.

 

Last year, when it was looking like a possibility that the Jays could face the Mets (Dickey’s former club) in the World Series, he said ‘Wouldn’t that be an interesting narrative.’ I’d never heard a player talk about ‘narrative’ before. It fascinated me. He has the mind of a storyteller – or an English professor. He’s one of a kind. Who else would pose with a Seurat painting?

 

 

I have an inside joke with my family about how baseball keeps really specific stats – my line was “This is only the third time in this stadium’s history that a player named John has homered in the fifth while wearing blue cleats on a Tuesday!” Then I read a similar line in his book which – I quote – said “There’s probably a record for the most doubles by a second baseman on an overcast Tuesday”. After I was done laughing, I thought ‘Wow, he thinks just like I do.’

 

I’ve always been an enormous bookworm, and also loved baseball. It was always hard for me to reconcile the two, especially because I got bullied a lot as a kid for being shy, sensitive, and ‘nerdy’ (a badge I now wear proudly) and sports were supposed to be for people who weren’t nerds. I also wasn’t that athletic – when I practiced windmill pitching in the driveway with my dad, we were lucky if I hit the garage door.

 

Dickey showed me that a love of reading and a love of baseball don’t have to be mutually exclusive – and sometimes the best way to understand life itself is a well-crafted baseball metaphor. He taught me that “Life is hard… but that doesn’t mean it’s not awesome.” He deserves to be recognized, if not for his numbers, for his humanity. I believe we can all learn a lot from him. I know I have. So without further ado, I’d like to thank him.

 

 

Thank you, Mr. Dickey.

Thank you for offering the most interesting, well-worded, least clichéd answers in post-game interviews. I always looked forward to hearing you talk – and hope you become a broadcaster when your playing days are over.

I want to thank you for paving the way for the thoughtful, intelligent young men who will come behind you, proving once and for all that sensitivity is not a weakness. I think it’s remarkable how quick you are to give credit to your teammates after a win, and praise other people. I hope they remembered to thank you once in a while, too.

Thank you for teaching me a valuable lesson about perseverance. There are so many guys on this team who were once considered underdogs, and even though it must have been incredibly hard and seemed hopeless at times, you’ve gone on to do amazing things. That made cheering for you all the more rewarding.

Thank you for bringing my dad and I closer together. The first Jays game we went to together since I was little was in July 2014 against the Rangers. I’d bought him and my grandpa tickets for Father’s Day, and he specifically wanted to see you pitch because he was fascinated by the knuckleball. The Jays lost that game, but we had so much fun making that trip together, and ever since then we’ve done a lot more bonding over baseball. (I should note that my dad never unwaveringly declares a favourite player, but he’s told me numerous times that he likes you).

My mom, who barely watches sports, is a fan of yours too, because she admires your character and how much you talk about your faith. She was actually the one who gave me your book, because she’d read part of it and thought it would be good for me to have.

I also want to thank you for being so outspoken about the things you experienced in your past, giving trauma survivors and mental illness sufferers some much-needed validation and hope. I’ve seen first-hand the impact your story has had on others. It can be a cruel world out there sometimes, but it makes me feel a little better knowing there are people like you in it.

I wish all the happiness in the world for you and your family. I always knew you couldn’t stay a Blue Jay forever. But wherever you wind up, be it Atlanta or elsewhere, I’ll be rooting for you.

God bless (and may the force be with you),

–  A grateful baseball fan

 

 

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  • Allen

    Good stuff. I too love reading and baseball and appreciate the courage of men of faith. Food for thought, “it’s better to be a “good man” than a great anything else. “

  • This is beautiful Emily. (I may be crying right now.)