R.A. Dickey Is My Homeboy

On Friday, August 13, 2010, R.A. Dickey threw a one-hit shutout against the Philadelphia Phillies. Yes, the very same R.A. Dickey who was once the property of your Seattle Mariners. What we wouldn’t give to have that guy back right now.

Needless to say, letting Dickey go (for nothing, by the way) may have been a bad move. The right-hander is 8-5 with a 2.43 ERA for a New York Mets ballclub that isn’t very good. And yet he started the year in the minors.

I don’t know what it is about Dickey that doesn’t immediately appeal to Major League Baseball teams. Maybe it’s the hard knuckleball he employs. Maybe it’s his lack of an ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow (the Tommy John ligament). Maybe it’s the fact that he’s just a decent guy who’s easy to turn away. Who knows for sure. All I know is, Dickey is the bomb.

Which leads me to my story within a story.

Back in 2008, when Dickey spent his one and only season with the Mariners, The Seattle Times sports department kicked off the baseball season by creating these campaign-style buttons that featured the mugshots of the players on the roster. They made one button for each M’s player, then held a contest to give away the buttons to readers once the season got underway. In order to take home one of these knick-knack prizes, fans simply had to write a short essay explaining why they deserved to win their favorite player’s button. It was a pretty decent giveaway that any true-blue Mariners fan would enjoy a crack at.

On the morning that the Times requested entries for Dickey’s button, I got the urge to write. I kind of liked Dickey because he was different, plus I knew that very few people (if any) would waste a few paragraphs proclaiming their adoration for a Rule V draftee.

So I sat down for twenty minutes and typed up a little ditty on my past history with Mr. Dickey. The story I wrote was entirely truthful and frankly kind of wordy. But it was unique, and I was about 95-percent sure I would win. I emailed it to then-editor Cathy Henkel, who sent back a reply within minutes telling me I was the proud victor of an R.A. Dickey campaign-style button. My story was to be printed in the paper the next day.

Upon reading my anecdote in print the following morning, I was disappointed to see that it had been chopped up to the point of no longer making sense (you can see for yourself here). Entire sentences were missing and the flow had disappeared. In short, my prose was mangled. It was my first in-depth experience with editors, and something that would linger in the back of my mind even as I pursued a career in journalism. I ended up taking a job at the Times a few months after my story was published.

A couple days later, I got my Dickey button in the mail. It was rather small, but to me it was a trophy. Somewhere, I still have that button. If the Mariners ever re-obtain the future Hall of Famer (I say that only half-jokingly; Dickey is still rather young for a knuckleball-specialist), I’ll even sport my button to a game or two. Needless to say, I miss R.A. Dickey. We will forever be bonded by a button and some words. And for that, I consider him my homeboy.

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