Knuckling Down

Robert Allen (R.A.) Dickey was born in Nashville, Tennessee in 1974. Growing up he was abused as a child by a babysitter (age 8) and by a teenage male. These traumas led to suicidal thoughts in his adult life. But R.A. is a role model of how faith and hope can lift up one’s life.

In high school, he was gifted athletically and was drafted as a pitcher by the Detroit Tigers. He declined the opportunity to pitch for the Tigers and chose instead to go to the University of Tennessee. He was an Academic All-American based on both his pitching performance and his academic record as an English major.

After his college career was over, he was again drafted to pitch in the major leagues. He was offered a substantial signing bonus contingent on a physical exam. The physical discovered that he was missing a vital ligament in the elbow of his throwing arm. The bonus was reduced to 10% of what was originally offered. This was essentially a gift because no one believed he could be an effective pitcher in the major leagues.

For a period of 10 years, it appeared that those who didn’t believe in Dickey were right. He spent most of his time in the minor leagues. When he did get an opportunity to pitch in the major leagues, he was a failure. But he never gave up hope.

He realized that he could never be a major league pitcher unless he could affect his lack of throwing strength with a pitch that few had mastered. He began to experiment with throwing a knuckleball. At first, he was terrible. In fact, he established a major league record for most home runs given up in a game. But he never gave up hope.

In 2012, he became a dominant pitcher and won the Cy Young Award as the best pitcher in the National League. That season he established a number of pitching records. He was 37 years old at the time and one of the oldest players in baseball. Prior to that season, he set a goal of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to raise awareness of human trafficking.

His career was one based upon hope and faith as a born-again Christian.

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“Out of sheer stubbornness, I just would keep going – just hoping that at some point something would click. I certainly held onto the hope that it might. I had no guarantees, but I trusted that if I worked hard and put in the time, it would eventually reap a fruit. I just didn’t know what that fruit was going to be or how big it was going to be.” – R.A. Dickey

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