Oct. 1, 2012
Hall of Famer.
Cy Young Award Candidate...all in a year's work for R.A. Dickey.
It is hard to imagine anyone having a more eventful year than the three-time All-American Vol pitcher.
Just one day after returning from a trek to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for charity in January, Dickey drove from his native Nashville to Knoxville where he was inducted into the Tennessee Baseball Hall of Fame.
Less than a month later, he reported to spring training in Florida to begin his journey through an incredible season in which he appeared in his first All-Star Game and became the first knuckleball pitcher in over three decades to win 20 games.
In between, his autobiography was published, he signed a deal to author three children's books and a documentary about knuckleball pitchers in which he stars was released.
Through all of the success, Dickey has been quick to defer all of the credit to others.
"It's hard to sum it up in a few sentences but it has been a pretty neat experience," Dickey said. "I am not a self-made man by any stretch of the imagination. I've had a lot of coaches, family, teammates and everyone in between pour into me and love me well. It's nice to be able to celebrate a year like this with them."
Two of the coaches that Dickey credits for playing a significant role in his journey to becoming one of the best pitchers in the world are current Tennessee head coach Dave Serrano and assistant coach Bill Mosiello.
Although they worked with him at different points in his UT career, both Mosiello and Serrano left indelible marks on Dickey's development as a pitcher.
"The whole reason I came to Tennessee in the first place was because of Bill Mosiello," Dickey said. "He recruited me in high school and something just clicked between us. We've always had a special bond between us ever since. I consider him a dear friend and when he left in the upcoming 1995 and 1996 season, [Dave] Serrano took his place. It is fairly poetic that those guys are such good friends and are now at UT, and they both poured into me in that way."
Born and raised in Nashville, where he still lives with his family, Dickey's Tennessee roots began long before coming to UT to play baseball. It was a completely different sport that drew him in originally.
"It's part of who I am," Dickey said. "I grew up with UT football around. Both Ben Bartholomew and Will Bartholomew [played] there and they are my brothers-in-law. I'm a fan of the culture that Tennessee represents in Knoxville so I have always followed ever since I left and even before then."
A story of perseverance and dedication himself, Dickey finds himself drawn to a similar narrative as told by his brother-in-law and current Tennessee starting fullback Ben Bartholomew.
"It's fun for me to follow [Ben]," Dickey said. "He has certainly persevered through a lot of Tennessee adversity. This is his fifth year and he has known three different coaches. Not a lot of people can tell that tale, but he can, he has persevered and he is making a career for himself over there."
A hard-throwing hurler as a Vol, Dickey has spent the past seven seasons reinventing himself on the mound and refining his technique as a knuckleball pitcher.
The results have been dramatic this year with the 6-2 right-hander establishing himself as one of the best pitchers in Major League Baseball with a 20-6 record and 2.69 ERA. Dickey lead the National League in innings pitched (227.2), strikeouts (222), complete games (5) and shutouts (3), but he sees those numbers as a result of his process rather than something to strive for.
"I don't really pitch for numbers as much as I do for consistency. I want to offer a consistent product every time I take the field. I want to figure out how I can throw a quality start up there every time out. Now if I give up less runs on that particular day great, but if I have given my team a chance to win just about every time out I can put my head on the pillow at night and sleep well."
That consistency he has displayed for the Mets this season has made him one of the top candidates to win the National League Cy Young Award, an accomplishment he had only dreamed of in years past.
"It is surreal," Dickey said. "I think every little boy grows up wanting to be the best pitcher in the world, or at least in the league. If you win the Cy Young Award it is kind of a pat on the back that you may be at least one of the top two in the world. Of course a part of me wants to win it, but I really don't feel like I need an award to tell me how I have done. I know that in [my heart] and that is good enough for me."
Having already written it on and off the field this season, it only seems fitting that he should take pen to paper and add an additional chapter for the paperback version of his autobiography.
"There will be an epilogue I'm sure," Dickey said. "It's been a special year and to get to share that with readers and people who have been loyal supporters of me and my family will be fun."