R.A. Dickey: Wherever I Wind Up
Posted August 11, 2012
Back when I lived in Dallas I was the biggest Rangers find around. I loved watching their games, and I knew the name of every player on their roster and all their statistics as well. I loved Rangers baseball - still do. When I lived there, R.A. Dickey was playing for the Rangers. One thing I loved to do was send baseball cards to different guys on the team and see if they would sign them and send them back. Some would do it, and others would not even do me the courtesy of sending the card back. Dickey was different than everybody else on the team though. He not only sent me back my card signed, but he sent me another one he had printed, signed as well. And on the back of his card he had his personal testimony and he laid out the plan of salvation very clearly. For that reason he quickly became one of my favorite baseball players, and one that I admire to this day.
Wherever I Wind Up is R.A. Dickey's story, and after reading the book you feel as if you have just gone through a whirlwind of events and emotions. There are some very sad parts to his story, and of course some very good ones as well. As a child he was sexually abused many times by a baby sitter and then by a random kid as well. His parents were divorced and because of their situation, his mom battled alcoholism. One day in high school his life changed forever though. He had a really good friend named Bo that played on the football and wrestling team with him, and Bo invited him to a Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting one day. Dickey agreed to go, and afterwards it got his mind thinking about God and where he would go if he died. One day he is over at Bo's house and starts asking him questions about becoming a Christian, and right there in Bo's room with Bo and Bo's mom, he asks the Lord into his heart. He says right away he felt "relief. A lightness." He still had an issue with bottling up his feelings though, and not until his 30s did he share with anyone - not even his wife - about the abuse he suffered as a child.
Dickey was a phenomenal high school pitcher, and a great pitcher at the University of Tennessee as well. He got drafted by the Texas Rangers and was given a $810,000 signing bonus, which was readily retracted once a routine physical found that his right elbow was missing its ulnar collateral ligament. He was seen as the freak pitcher who was missing parts in his body. So, he was sent down to the minors where he pitched pretty well, but was hammered in his first big league start. The Rangers then suggest to him that he should become a knuckleball pitcher, just to save his career - something he was at first opposed to. The stigma is that only pitchers who are on the decline start throwing knuckleballs. After he realized it may be his only shot to make it to the majors he agreed though. From there he bounced around the minors with a bunch of different organizations, making a few big league appearances - none of them too impressive. Even when he did well it seemed as if teams did not want to take the chance on a 30 year-old knuckleballer. Finally he starts gaining command of his knuckleball, but still nobody seems to really want him, which leads to doubt creeping into his mind and making him less and less effective.
Eventually Dickey found a home in the New York Mets - the team he is still with today. He pitched consistently during the end of 2010, but then had just a decent season in 2011, finishing with an 8-13 record and a 3.28 ERA. 2012 has shown the dominant side of Dickey. As I am writing this he has a 15-3 record with a 2.72 ERA. Dickey may have finally found the confidence he needs to succeed, and his knuckleball seems to be unhitable at times.
I wanted to share with you one of my favorite passages in the book where Dickey is talking about prayer and what it is to him. He says on page 286, "When I pray, I am not just talking to God. I am deepening my relationship with Him. To me, prayer is not a me-driven, goal-driven endeavor, something I turn to when I really need to pitch a dominant game or get out of a tight spot or a personal crisis. I've never prayed to God and said, 'Lord, please let me strike out Albert Pujols four times tonight.' Nor will I ever do that. God is not a genie in a bottle that you rub when you want something. He is the ever-present, ever-loving Father, the guiding Spirit of my life, my Light and my Truth. He has a plan for me; I believe that as much as I believe anything in my whole life, and even if I don't end up flourishing in New York or proving myself to be a trustworthy big-league pitcher, I know that's because He has something else in store for me, and whatever that is, I know that I will be at peace."
Wherever I Wind Up is an extremely well written book - what else would you expect from an English lit major? The thing that makes a biography - or in this case an autobiography - good, is when the author goes into very vivid detail, so much so that you feel as if you are there and you feel the emotions the person is experiencing. While reading this book I could feel Dickey's pain. I could feel his joy. I could feel his sadness. I hurt with him when he lost and I rejoiced with him when he won or had a great accomplishment. (I feel really cheesy righting that, just to let you know - but it is the truth.) I felt like I was there for every major part of his life. This book gave me great insight not only into the life of R.A. Dickey, but into the mind of R.A. Dickey. Dickey is a fantastic writer, and he does a great job of really pulling the reader in and making you not want to put the book down. I instantly became enthralled by his story and at times I kept reading way longer than I should have.
Possibly one of my favorite autobiographies of all time was Josh Hamilton's Beyond Belief, but Wherever I Wind Up easily ranks up there as a close second now. I highly recommend reading this book if you love sports, stories of redemption, or just great books. It will be fairly quick read, just because of how well it is written; but, do not buy it if you want to get any work done, because I seemingly could not get anything done once I picked it up and started reading.
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