Rather than bore readers with stats, New York Mets starting pitcher R.A. Dickey refused to write a straightforward sports book. Instead he makes himself vulnerable, giving a raw account of childhood sexual abuse, infidelity and keeping his sanity after spending 14 years in the minor league system [No. 1 draft pick of the Texas Rangers in 1996]. Dickey found power through his anguish and explores his abuse in a new memoir, Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity, and the Perfect Knuckleball.
“I won’t say it was always easy to relive the most difficult times of my life, but I am a better, stronger person for having done so.” Dickey says he’s learning to live in the moment, whether it’s climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro to raise funds to stop human trafficking in Mumbai, or embracing his invigorated career with the Mets—the soft-spoken Tennessean has truly been transformed by Jesus Christ, he writes.
As far as his career, after spending time with the Rangers, Seattle Mariners and Minnesota Twins farm teams, Dickey inked a two-year deal with the Mets in 2011 and finished with a 3.28 ERA and was 13th best in the National League last season. R.A. is certainly overcoming the odds.
Why did you select this time to write this book?
Dickey: I really felt that God gave me a very unique story and it took awhile for me to get the equipment to process it and the vocabulary to communicate it. When these things started to happen, I felt a compulsion from God that he wanted me to share my story, even though it was very painful. I tried to be obedient to that, before I didn’t have the capacity to talk about it [abuse]. It took me a good five years to get to that place where I felt I could talk about it in a way that would make sense and also [that] was transparent.
Were you reluctant to be that transparent?
Dickey: When you say reluctantly, I would say fear. That fear sometimes made me question the consequences of putting the story out there, sure. But in the end I think that made it even more powerful to me in the midst, you know—and to be an active player. I felt God could use that in that moment. I tried to make decisions to get the story out while I was an active player.
Was there a pivotal moment when you really sensed God and his direction?
Dickey: I hope to communicate in the book that God is not a God of second chances. He is a God of third, fourth, fifth and sixth chances. Consequently, I heard the voice, a myriad of times. [There’s] a place in the book where I talk about when [former Texas Ranger GM] Doug Melvin took away my signing bonus. Not just my signing bonus. It was the hope of possibly never playing in the big leagues [Dickey was missing his ulnar collateral ligament, and Melvin reduced the offer to $75,000 from $810,000]. You know I really wanted to erupt. Whether it was curse words or having a bad temper, I really felt God say “I got you. Don’t do that. I got you. Everything is going to be OK”. So I got up and walked out trying to be obedient to that voice. That was one instance. Another instance was when I tried to swim across the Missouri River and almost died. I was on the banks of the Missouri and happy to be alive. I felt God saying to me that my life was going to be different. I didn’t really know what that meant. But everything seemed to have more flavor to it and I was able to live in the moment like never before with my wife, with my children—with my career. That he had showed me a different way to live.
Is there a scripture that really encourages you?
Dickey: Zephaniah 3:17. That God is in our midst. He is a fierce warrior. The whole idea of Him being in my midst and always around is comforting. [“The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee…”].
You are doing well with the Mets. Do you feel now that your life has come full circle?
Dickey: I can appreciate that, but I am not very good at celebrating things…. I spent a lifetime thinking that there was the next drama around the corner. I haven’t got to the point where I can celebrate things. As far as coming full circle, I can certainly appreciate that. You know I can be thankful for that. I can see God’s care for me in that. But as far as relaxing in that, it’s just hard for me to do. That could be the next part of my journey is ‘How do I celebrate well…’? I have spent a lifetime of trying to survive. All those mechanisms have root in me. So I’m slowly but surely trying to break some of those down and replace them with the ability to be free enough to hope and to be free enough to [be happy…].
I understand that you name your bats after literary characters [He thought of becoming an high school English teacher]?
Dickey: Actually I named them after literary swords, because the bat is kind of like our weapons. I like to have some fun with that. It something that keeps me entertained [laugh].
Which [literary] character can you best identify with or has encouraged you?
Dickey: Well, I can tell which one I am most like, Odysseus [Odysseus Greek hero known for brains and brawn]. He had to get through quite a bit to get back home, and although he had a lot of attributes that would make him a hero. Not that I am or was. He had a lot of ups and downs. He had to go through a lot of experiences to get home [Ithaca].… Now the journey for me is how to do that well.
The love of your wife [Anne] has been a great source of strength...
Dickey: The fear when you are abused is that you’re going to share that and people are going to throw their hands up and run as fast as they can in the other direction. That pain is too much to bear and you hold it tightly and keep it from people. That is an untruth perpetrated by the enemy, or one of them. When I told Anne, my wife, about my past—the things I’ve [had done or the things done to me], she didn’t run the other way--but instead embraced me in the midst of them. I think that was a life changing experience for me.