Spiritual Life

Major-Leaguer’s rehabilitation offers life lessons for all

R.A. Dickey had the professional baseball season of his dreams. After more than 10 years in the Minor Leagues and multiple ups and downs with Major League teams, last year Dickey landed a starting pitcher’s job with the New York Mets. He made the most of it, posting a 20-6 record with an 2.73 ERA, leading the league in strikeouts on what was a very mediocre Mets team. He pitched in the All-Star Game. Nov. 15 and won the Cy Young Award, the highest individual honor for a Major League pitcher.

His biography, “Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball” (Blue Rider Press, 2012) with Wayne Coffey is compelling. Raised in poverty with an absent father and alcoholic mother, he survived childhood sexual abuse.

On the day he was to sign a lucrative contract with the Texas Rangers, a medical report indicated that he had a congenital muscle condition in his pitching arm. The offer was rescinded. Determined to succeed despite his physical limitations, Dickey mastered the mysterious knuckleball, thrown by only a handful of successful professional pitchers in history.

Bouncing around the Minor Leagues, living on odd jobs and the devotion of his wife, he tried everything to make it into the Big Leagues, to no avail. A born-again Christian, Dickey betrayed all who loved him and himself by committing adultery. After confessing his failure to the mother of his three children, he lived on his own and contemplated suicide. It was only through his wife’s patience and understanding, the support of friends, teammates and an excellent therapist that Dickey has been able to rebuild his life. And all this while learning to pitch the knuckleball.

Finally, at the age of 37, he has found peace within. He has reconciled with those who love him.

Dickey’s biography is confessional. His story is so much my story – so much like all of our stories. He has overcome brokenness and pain, while stumbling along the way. He has tried to learn from his mistakes. He honors the ones who have stuck with him even when he didn’t deserve it. He has discovered the loving God who welcomes home the prodigal son and daughter (Luke 15) again and again.

I am rooting for R.A. Dickey and all of the R.A. Dickeys of the world!

The Rev. Mark S. Bollwinkel is senior pastor of Los Altos United Methodist Church. For more information, visit www.laumc.org.

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