R.A. Dickey On Twitter, Mt. Kilimanjaro & More

An article by posted on August 20, 2011

Last night, a collection of bloggers were invited to Citi Field for another Mets blogging event. As part of the day, we got to spend close to 20 minutes in the home dugout talking to pitcher R.A. Dickey, who is even nicer in person than he seems on TV.

Dickey spoke about his recently joining Twitter, the knuckleball, his career story, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro and the change in culture around the Mets since last season. Below are some of the thoughts Dickey shared with myself and the other bloggers.

On joining Twitter:

“I was somewhat skeptical at the beginning because of some experiences some teammates had, but I decided that the benefits far outweigh the detriments. I decided to [get on Twitter and] start interacting with as many fans as I could in an effort to just have a platform to have a voice. It’s a neat format to be able to use and say something significant.”

On his Twitter experience:

“It’s been first-class. I had some reservations at the beginning, and of course, I haven’t been on Twitter after a poor outing, so we’ll see. But my hope is that the thread with eventually transcend a basic Mets fan type of thread. Although I like talking about baseball, I have many more passions than just baseball.”

On using Twitter while climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania:

“I’ve got a satellite that will allow me to tweet from the actual mountain, so I’ll be able to send pictures to the followers from 18,000 feet, which will be pretty neat.”

On training for and the climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro:

“DJ Carrasco has a mask that I’m going to use to go on runs with that will simulate being a 7,000-feet, 8,000-feet, 9,000-feet. It’s got settings on it that will emulate what it’ll be like on the mountain. I chose the route that will give us the best chance to summit Uhuru Peak, which is about 19,000 feet, and that’ll be an eight-day route. People get in trouble when they try to ascend too fast, so we are taking a few extra days to ensure that we’ll be able to do it.”

On signing with the Mets and becoming a New Yorker:

“I did have some preconceived generalizations, which I admit was a lack of imagination on my part. When I came earlier with the Twins and Rangers, I’d only have little sample sizes of the city. I never got outside the city, didn’t get to experience the culture that New York has to offer. When I signed here, I was a little apprehensive because I didn’t know how I’d fit in, but I’ve come to find that it is a fantastic place, and I’m really glad to be a part of it.”

On the difference in the clubhouse from last season to this year:

“The difference that you are seeing is strictly due to good leadership. This year, it’s much more stable. We know the manager [Terry Collins] is going to be back next year, and we know the GM [Sandy Alderson] is going to be back next year, and there are pieces of the puzzle that offer some real stability. That permeates down to the clubhouse and everybody knows who they can lean on and what the vision for the club is. There is a pulse of honesty that beats through the clubhouse, and that is refreshing.”

On communication between the front office and the players:

“Guys aren’t shy about telling the truth and telling you where you stand. We have a lot of things that are really going well. The communication between player-front office, players-manager, and you’ve seen a lot of changes in culture as far as the way the clubhouse is run and the people that are in it.”

On being impressed by the young players stepping up and performing:

“It’s been the consistency. Guys that are here obviously have the ability to be here, and they show you flashes of being really good, and that’s why they got drafted and that’s why they’ve been able to play. There have been some guys that have showed a real consistent level of that kind of play, and that’s the thing that has stuck out to me. [Justin] Turner, Lucas Duda and even Ruben Tejada, his defense has been spectacular for the most part.”

On mentoring younger pitchers:

“There have been a few that have leaned on me for some questions, and I’ve volunteered some questions, Dillon Gee in particular. Jon Niese and I locker beside each other, and I like to think we have a good relationship. I wouldn’t dare call myself a mentor to anybody, but I’m not shy about telling a guy where I think he can get better.”

On how he views his performance this season:

“It’s hard because I’m the type of guy that doesn’t enjoy anything more than winning. But I know that specific metric [wins] isn’t a good measurement because a lot of guys get run support, a lot of guys don’t. But at the end of the year, if I can look back and have an ERA that I feel is in a good place and good innings pitched, then that will show that I have been reliable and trustworthy. If I can be reliable every fifth day, keep the team in the game and do it every fifth day, that is what I’ve always tried to gear my workouts and mentality to, and that’s what I can offer. I’ve still got eight starts and am hoping that I win all eight.”

On the evolution of his knuckleball:

“That’s the beauty of the pitch and what makes it so fun. This year I’ve been able to change speeds with it and realize that’s a real weapon. It’s hard to do, but I’m getting better at it, and that’s something I can carry into the next year. Knowing when to use my conventional stuff in relation to when I use my knuckleball; that has been another stepping stone. I feel like I can throw it for strikes, and now that I have that part down, there are a few more steps I really want to take with the pitch. One is being able to take spin completely off when I throw a slow one and when I throw a hard one.”

On his relationship with Boston’s knuckleballer Tim Wakefield:

The ball that we throw, what makes it do what it does, is the lack of spin. That is similar between us, so I’ll often lean on him. If I could ever get to the point that he’s at [taking spin off the ball] with the arm strength that I have before I get to old, I think that I can have some really neat years.”

On pitching into his forties:

“I’ve had the kind of story that makes me much better at trying to live the next five minutes well. I don’t know, but I think I have the type of pitch that will allow me to do that, and my body feels good enough to be able to do that. Will that be a certainty? I can’t tell you, but I can tell you I’ll be out there Sunday at 1:10.”

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