08/31/11 7:26 PM ET
Wordsmith Dickey calls Cave 'Fan Utopia'
By Mark Newman / MLB.com
If you're R.A. Dickey, waiting for your next turn in the rotation Friday night in Washington, you bring your authentic Darth Vader two-piece helmet to the MLB Fan Cave Wednesday and spend a couple of hours there. You put the helmet on and tape an upcoming video skit about "Star Wars" tips. You do a half-hour Facebook chat about everything from your Major League Baseball journey to why you tweet 100 times a day. You sign the autograph wall and tape an MLB Network remote Q&A and hang out in a happy place.
You reveal the title of your memoirs that will be published next spring by Penguin Press: "Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball." You describe your upcoming January hike to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro and tell fans how they can get involved so it will help an important cause. You give Mets fans some reassurance.
"It's going to be tough, because we're missing some key guys. But at the same time, you just have to try to stay motivated," the right-hander said. "You play a game that's fun. Forget the politics involved, forget where you are in the standings, just remembering what it's like throwing the dirty uniform when you were a kid after playing a doubleheader, and having fun.
"Truthfully, we've got a clubhouse full of guys who are high-character guys you don't need to motivate to do that. They bring what they bring every day anyway, and it's been a real treat to play with those guys."
No. 43 turns 37 after the season and he is still bringing it like it was a postseason pursuit. He is coming off his first win since July 25, but there was little help during that drought. He pitched seven shutout innings in beating the Marlins on Monday, and he has posted a 2.93 ERA with 87 strikeouts and 26 walks since May 20, despite a 5-6 record over that 19-start span. He has been a quality-start regular.
Plenty of support from Mets fans came in to his Twitter account during that time, too. Dickey has posted a fast 1,600-plus tweets since starting it just recently, answering questions around the clock when not on the field. To his credit, he has a lot to say, and as one of the most cerebral athletes in the game, worth an ever-larger audience.
"The highlight for me has been the humor," Dickey said of Twitter. "Most people, at least on my thread, are fairly witty and I really enjoy that interaction. That witty banter has been the highlight for me, because it's somewhat unexpected. I didn't have a large set of expectations going into Twitter, but obviously the interaction is nice, and I like being able to share a peek behind the curtain for the fan, but I get something in return to, which is nice, and that was something unexpected."
On Wednesday morning, Dickey tweeted: "On my way to check out @mlbfancave. Excited to see what all the hubbub is about."
What did he think after being part of it?
"It's great. It should go from the Fan Cave to the Fan Utopia," Dickey said. "It's almost overwhelming, it's got so much great stuff. For the baseball fan and the baseball player, really, you can get lost in here. That's hard to do for a guy, especially one who has been around for 15 years, to get caught off guard and surprised. This place is remarkable."
Down in the basement level, a workroom was converted into a studio spot with a green screen, so Dickey could offer nuggets of "Star Wars" knowledge. After taping a segment in Han Solo attire, he pulled the two-piece black Darth helmet out of the bag that his agent was carrying, then had help placing it over his head. What was it like to channel his favorite "Star Wars" character?
"It was good," he said. "It was the first time I've ever publicly gotten to play Darth Vader, and that was a real treat."
Dickey has much to look forward to after this season is over. He will climb the world's largest free-standing mountain and then will be autographing copies of his own book, which is sure to cause a lot of buzz next Spring Training into Opening Day.
"The reason I picked Kilimanjaro was twofold," Dickey said. "One, I'm a huge literature fan. I read [Ernest Hemingway's] 'The Snows of Kilimanjaro' when I was young, and it always stuck with me as something that I thought would be neat. As I got older and realized it was a possibility to climb that if I ever had resources and time, that's something that was always on my bucket list.
"Second, it's because it's not a climb that involves any technical climbing skills. I didn't want to alarm the Mets, I didn't want to alarm MLB, for that matter. It's basically a glorified hike, to a real high altitude. The only worry is, 'Are you going to get altitude sickness?' So I've chosen the route that helps us get to the top to ensure that we're going to summit, which is an eight-day route. It gives us the most time to acclimate to that altitude."
Dickey said he is supporting his hike by raising funds for Bombay Teen Challenge and asks his fans to get involved.
"I'm auctioning off a lunch with a fan or two, also memorabilia, a personal glove, a personal tour of [Citi Field] and two tickets to a Mets game," he said. "The proceeds go to benefit an outreach near to my heart, the Bombay Teen Challenge. It is an outreach that is geared toward the combating of human traffic -- specifically in India, in Mumbai. The part I want to bring awareness to is the red-light-district outreach, that's under the Bombay Teen Challenge.
"It's something my wife and I have always been felt led to be a part of. It just seemed like a natural flow. Most of the time you get involved in charities, it's usually because you have a personal connection with something. I met someone who was a big part of the genesis of the Bombay Teen Challenge. When he spoke to me, it was like a horn going off: 'You need to be a part of this in some way.' I thought this was a good way to do it."
Dickey will be writing a column and providing a v-blog during the hike. Writing is something he does a lot of these days, with the book coming out.
"I've been spending a lot of time doing that, which has taken from my reading," he said. "[The book] is kind of a cross between 'The Glass Castle' by Jeannette Walls and 'Ball Four' from Jim Bouton.
"Everybody in general has a narrative of some kind. The trick is, can you have the courage to tell the truth about it? In my case, it's taken me a long time to work up the courage to do that. So there are a lot of things that are very intimate that are in the book. But there's a lot of levity, too. Because baseball is not without its levity."
Dickey said at Fan Cave that he wanted to "set the record straight" that he never threw a forkball before finding his niche as a knuckleballer.
"That's something that was kind of, other people assumed that's what it was. It was always a knuckleball," he said. "It's just one that I threw as hard as I could, that would have kind of a tumbling rotation, but I held it just like a knuckleball. One Sunday night, I was throwing against Tim Wakefield, ironically, and Joe Morgan was doing the game and he called it 'The Thing.' And 'The Thing' just took off. Everybody wanted to know what it was. It was a 'hybrid pitch,' it was 'part forkball,' it was 'part knuckleball' -- no one ever knew. So just to set the record straight, it was never a forkball, it was always a knuckleball."