Everybody, meet RA Dickey.
Here's why he is Extremely Important.
1. He's the 2012 National League Cy Young Award winner, an Olympic bronze medalist from Atlanta 1996, a first-round pick in the MLB draft, pitcher of a 20-win season… you get the picture. But he's also the victim of sexual abuse, grew up in a broken home plagued by divorce, alcoholism and borderline homelessness, floundered in the minor leagues for over a decade, and contemplated suicide on more than one occasion. He's overcome so much -- so. much. -- and has achieved such incredible success in spite of it all.
I sort of did a thing with my Dickey shirsey the day he won the Cy Young.
2. Not only did he suffer more than any person should ever have to suffer, but he came out of it a better person. No discernible bitterness, no chip on his shoulder. He went to therapy, renewed his faith, and is just the biggest sweetheart teddy bear. (And I've met him, so I can say that for a fact!) Before the 2012 season, he climbed Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for a charity that rescues girls from sexual slavery in Mumbai. He's just all heart. I think all of his suffering did nothing but made him kinder.
When I met him I told him I might cry if he got traded… and then a week later I cried when he got traded.
3. After he was drafted by the Texas Rangers, he and the rest of the Olympic team's starting rotation were on the cover of Baseball America before winning Olympic bronze. But someone in the Rangers organization saw that cover and noticed that RA's pitching arm was hanging funny. So they gave him a physical and realized that he's missing his ulnar collateral ligament. Doctors have no idea how he can throw at all, let alone throw without any pain, and suddenly he was a medical mystery and a huge liability for the Rangers. This ended up costing him his big contract and thus began his long slog through the minors… but if you recognize the term UCL, it's because that's what pitchers tear before needing Tommy John surgery. RA Dickey will never need Tommy John surgery because he's literally missing that body part. (And with the slew of pitchers needing Tommy John these last few weeks, that should make him invaluable!)
4. Not only did RA succeed with a trick elbow, he succeeded with a trick pitch. The knuckleball has sort of been known as a gimmick because nobody can really figure it out, but for RA, it was his last hope. His career as a fastball pitcher was going nowhere, and finally Orel Hershiser told him it was learn the knuckleball or call it quits. So he learned the knuckleball as a last-ditch effort to save his career, and ended up becoming the first-ever knuckleball pitcher to win the Cy Young. Can I get a hell yeah?
5. He's a huge nerd. HUGE. He studied English in college, keeps a stack of books in his locker and names his bats after literary characters. He's written an autobiography and a children's book. He tweets about things like Harry Potter and art recommendations. And he is the BIGGEST Star Wars fan.
6. He's not perfect. He doesn't pretend to be perfect. He knows that he's screwed up a whole lot and, if I had to guess, he would be the first person to tell you as much. But he spent so long thinking he was absolutely worthless, and has worked so hard to make himself better. He truly deserves everything he's ever achieved and then some.
Oh god this is so long and barely even scratches the surface. One day I might have to chronicle my time as his fan, because it's been quite the experience