R.A. Dickey: Nashville's hero of epic proportions

R.A. Dickey

R.A. Dickey

R.A. Dickey

We at Sports & Entertainment Nashville extend our congratulations to Nashville’s own R. A. Dickey for his remarkable season with the New York Mets and his quite-deserved honor of being named the National League’s 2012 Cy Young Award winner. Dickey, whose reputation as an all-around admirable fellow appears to be more than well deserved, is a Nashvillian born and raised.

He was a 1993 graduate of Montgomery Bell Academy and well regarded for his high school sports career. A true native son, Dickey graduated from the University of Tennessee, where he had an impressive career and eventually was bronze medalist in the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.

In more recent years, Dickey has become known for his perseverance within the ranks of Major League Baseball, finding homes with multiple teams in as many years through his career in the majors, even returning home to Nashville for a stint in 2007 as a Nashville Sound. We were proud as punch to have Dickey home, even if for one lone season where Dickey made us proud once again, earning “Pitcher of the Year” for his 12-6 record as a Sound in 2007.

After perfecting his knuckleball pitching style and finding a home with the Mets, Dickey has made history as the most celebrated knuckleballer in several years, posting a 20-6 record for the season and striking out a whopping 230 batters. Quite deservedly, Dickey has earned his place as one of the best pitchers in Major League Baseball.

What may be even more remarkable than Dickey’s rise to baseball’s Mount Olympus is his story of growth, rebirth, and determination to succeed, all the while showing appreciation for everyone who has helped him along the way. Dickey, a true Renaissance man, was an English Literature major in college and has repeatedly expressed his affection for the world of fiction and literature.

In fact, Dickey has been quoted as saying that, had baseball been a dream unrealized, he would have happily ended up as a college English professor. If the stories we hear are true, Dickey is known for keeping books in his locker and has even named his bats after iconic swords in classic literature – The Hobbit and Beowulf, to be precise.

Indeed, Dickey’s history as a professional baseball player reminds this bibliophile of the Roman poet Virgil’s epic poem The Aeneid and the legendary hero Aeneas. Aeneas, a Trojan prince who wandered for years enduring and overcoming challenges set before him and eventually becoming known as the legendary founder of Rome, is a classic figure in literature known most clearly for his determination to succeed despite setbacks and to honor his family with a strongly developed sense of responsibility and devotion. R. A. Dickey is a modern Aeneas if ever there was one.

It is quite fitting then, isn’t it, that this modern Aeneas calls Nashville home, the city known as the “Athens of the South.” If all of these facts weren’t quite enough to make any Nashvillian stand up and doff his hat to R. A. Dickey, here’s one more stellar bit of information. Dickey, along with help from writer Wayne Coffey, released his autobiography Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball this past March. In it, Dickey’s honest appraisal of his life and all its hurdles and rewards has gathered critical and social acclaim.

Many in both civic and athletic circles have lauded Dickey for his unabashed support of children and families, due in large part, one can safely assume, to his personal and private trauma as a victim of child abuse, a dark part of Dickey’s childhood that he had not shared publicly prior to his autobiography.

This honesty has gathered even more support for Dickey’s causes, and, in this writer’s humble opinion, is reason enough to supersede even Dickey’s well-deserved honor in baseball and permanently affix his reputation as a role model to be proud of. Congratulations, R. A. Dickey. Nashville is on its feet, applauding your perseverance, your determination, and the pride you bring home to our town.