Before being named the National League’s best pitcher in 2012, R.A. Dickey spent parts of seven seasons as an Oklahoma RedHawk. With his lengthy tenure in Oklahoma City and the friendships he developed there among its residents, teammates kidded Dickey that he should run for mayor.
“I loved Oklahoma City,” Dickey says. “Loved the people, loved the laid-back mentality.”
From 1999 to 2006, Dickey saw Oklahoma City grow and develop. He was a part of the second baseball team to call Bricktown home after the RedHawks moved from All Sports Stadium at the fairgrounds to the new Southwestern Bell Bricktown Ballpark. Dickey saw first-hand Bricktown’s renaissance with the addition of the mile-long canal connecting downtown, Bricktown, and the Oklahoma River, and multiple bars and restaurants opening around the new ballpark in an area that was once a largely abandoned warehouse district.
“I loved Bricktown and watching it grow,” he says.
Dickey lived in different parts of Oklahoma City, spending one season with pastor Stan Toler and his family and multiple seasons in northwest Oklahoma City by Quail Springs Mall. Dickey’s wife, Anne, worked at the nearby Border’s Books, and Dickey enjoyed an occasional round of golf at Gaillardia Country Club.
“My wife and I, we grew a lot in Oklahoma City,” Dickey says. “I have a lot of great memories about that place. I was real good friends with the [RedHawks’] general manager and manager. I could walk into a restaurant, and people would know me. Because they would come to games and very rarely would a guy be there for more than a couple years, and I was there for six.
“There was a lot of time to get to know the place.”
And, the knuckleball, as Texas Rangers manager Buck Showalter and pitching coach Orel Hershiser asked Dickey to return to Oklahoma City in 2005 and concentrate on transitioning from a conventional pitcher to a knuckleballer. Completing the transition and becoming one of the most dominant pitchers in the game was gradual, a marathon, not a sprint, but its starting line was Oklahoma City. Indeed, for Dickey, 2005 was the beginning of an amazing journey that ultimately led him not only to win 120 games in fifteen big league seasons but also to baffle and confound hitters during his peak in 2012. Catcher Josh Thole caught most of Dickey’s starts when Dickey won the National League Cy Young Award, and Thole describes Dickey’s pitching as “incredible.”
“He was just dominating,” Thole says. “It felt, literally every time this man stepped on the mound, you knew you were winning that ballgame. Hitters would come into the box and just be like, ‘Wow, this is nasty again today.’ Especially guys in division. They’re going, ‘Jesus! We’ve got to face him again?’ They couldn’t hit him. And, when you get those kind of reactions from some of the elite hitters in baseball, I mean, you know you’re on.”
Quite the journey. And quite the beginning from Bricktown Ballpark where Dickey stood on the mound, a thirty-year-old man, in his ninth season of professional baseball, following the suggestion of Showalter and Hershiser and trusting in this new and unpredictable pitch to see where it would lead him.