Soul Pitcher: The Mets’ R.A. Dickey

Abuse survivor Eirik Rogers praises the bravery of New York Mets Pitcher R. A. Dickey for speaking openly about the sexual abuse he endured as a child.

The best teams in baseball can easily lose nearly half their games in a season. The best hitters lose two thirds of their at-bats; their trip to the plate usually ends in failure. It is a game of character, because it takes one to come back time after time in the face of such predictable loss. Against this backdrop has emerged from the shadows a true hero of the odds.

R. A. Dickey, the New York Mets knuckleball pitcher who ranked as the 7th best pitcher in the National League for the 2010 season and 13th in 2011 has shown that courage does not end at the pitcher’s mound. For him, it continues onto the pages of a remarkably frank autobiography.

An excerpt of his soon-to-be released memoir published in Sports Illustrated hits home for many of us hiding in the dugout, afraid to take the mound in our own lives.  Dickey speaks an unspeakable truth about his childhood sexual abuse at the hands of a babysitter when he was eight.  My mouth is dry as I read it, my heart is racing.  The secret is out now—it cannot be called back.  Years of silence have ended with a single courageous decision to step out of that dark closet.

Some of those among us who have endured such secrecy and shame in our own childhoods know all too well the fear of revealing our pasts. For many of us, we would have rather died than suffer the embarrassment of exposing our humiliation. And for a lot of victims, the mixing of psychic shame with sexual pleasure became a toxic blend, ensuring we dutifully kept our molester’s confidences for decades. Many no doubt have gone to their graves as wrinkled old men, old secrets carefully boxed in their hearts, never divulged.

Dickey has taken a different approach. He has made a conscious decision not to hide that box but to open it. Even his throw is honest; while he had hoped to be a conventional pitcher dealing deceptive hands to guessing hitters, he discovered his strength was the knuckleball. When he pitches from the mound, what gets delivered is no secret.

In the same excerpt, Dickey talks of finding a hypodermic syringe in the Rangers locker room in 2001. He ponders the undeserved hits powered by clandestinely enhanced muscles. The unspoken irony is that while some professional athletes find their power from deception, Dickey has been empowered by candor. He has opened his soul, and has all the power of a man with nothing to hide.

 

For more on R.A. Dickey, listen to The Errant Heel sports podcast.

Photo: AP/Mitchell

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About Eirik Rogers

Eirik Rogers grew up in upstate New York's lake-effect snow belt south of Lake Ontario, and thawed out in southern California. He embarked on eight years of undergraduate and graduate science education, but realized a greater passion for writing. Along the lines of what Maya Angelou calls the "melody" of the English language, he uses words to express deeper truths on a variety of human interest topics. Eirik currently lives in a quiet river town with a partner his state of residence will not allow him to marry, and two cats that the state seems to be OK with.

Comments

  1. Brilliant work Eirik! Brilliant. Thank you for taking this on. I fully hope people will listen and learn.

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