Favorites Friday: RA Dickey

Good to see his delivery face hasn't changed much!
Did YOU know the MLB's current National League Cy Young award winner was an Olympian? Back before he was baffling the majors with his knuckleball, he was a fresh-faced fastball pitcher for Team USA in Atlanta in 1996.

I didn't know this until well after I called myself a huge fan of his, and it just got added onto a rapidly growing list of reasons why I love him. I talked last week about the phenomenon of liking an athlete more the more I get to know about him; RA Dickey was my first (and, until Jim Craig, only) experience with this. But it got to a point where some new little tidbit or sound bite would come to light and I would just laugh, because of course it was perfect. Again.

When Dickey started with the Mets, I knew nothing about him. He pitched about .500 for the season, but always seemed to get awful run support because his ERA was low. So the rest of the team got blamed for that, in my mind. And besides, he was a pitcher that hit pretty decently, so I liked him.

The next season was a hot mess, and due to no fault of his own. Again, his ERA was respectable, but his run support was atrocious. Utterly laughable. I watched him pitch quality start after quality start, only to lose because the team just wasn't hitting. I'm a total sucker for an underdog, so I probably have this awful season to credit my fandom to. I saw this amazing pitcher who was being completely let down by his team and was FURIOUS for him.

This was when I first decided I wanted to buy his jersey and found out that it didn't exist. Seriously. So I had to settle for watching interviews, where I discovered that he's a humble, well-educated, well-read, eloquent, nerdy, soft-spoken, polite family-man, and then get even angrier that I couldn't wear his name and number on my back.

But then he signed a contract extension for 2012 and, hallelujah, the Mets came to their senses! I immediately ran to the Mets store in the mall and bought the first one I could find. Who cares that it was a men's shirt and I was basically drowning in it? I chopped a few inches off the bottom and the sleeves and was good to go!

And then... the 2012 season happened and I wanted to cry with happiness. He became the Mets' star, pitching full games, setting the record for consecutive shutout innings, becoming the first pitcher to reach 10 wins, striking out everyone... I was so proud, and had never felt more like a hipster in my entire life. "I've liked him since before his jersey was available in stores! HAH!"

Then he won the Cy Young Award and the Mets traded him to Toronto. >.< The rational, sport administration major in me understands that this was probably the best for all parties involved and what their goals are, but... god, I still hate the Mets for doing it. I was able to meet him in NYC a week (almost to the day) before he was traded, and after telling him I'm such a huge fan of his (to which he responded "It means so much to me to hear you say that!"), I said, "I might actually cry if you're traded." He laughed in that flattered, embarrassed sort of way, but I was serious.
Best. Day. EVER.

And I did. How can you not cry when a player gets traded and tweets "thank you for making me feel wanted" to his New York fans? It still makes me weepy. He's a player that names his bats after books, travels to India to aid an organization dedicated to stopping human trafficking, and dresses up like Star Wars characters with his kids. He's not exactly your run-of-the-mill athlete.

But he WAS named to Team USA for the 2013 World Baseball Classic, which means I can get a jersey with his name on the back and still be able to root for the team on the front. This solves 99% of my baseball-related problems! (The other 1% being how this Miamian/New Yorker is going to watch Toronto's games. I miss him and the season hasn't even started yet.)

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