Inspired by legendary American writer Ernest Hemingway, a New York Mets pitcher is willing to risk his entire 2012 salary to ascend Mount Kilimanjaro.
R.A. Dickey, a journeyman starting pitcher, will test his climbing limits at 20,000 feet in January. The 36-year-old knuckleballer is 41-50 with a 4.34 ERA in 204 games over parts of nine seasons with the Rangers, Twins, Mariners and Mets. He was 8-13 during the 2011 season in Flushing with a 3.28 ERA.
The Mets aren't exactly happy with Dickey's soaring offseason plans; "concerned" would be a better term.
"Yeah. I'm a grown man, and I can do what I want to do," Dickey told New York Magazine. "But at the same time, let's say I slip, fall, break my leg, and can't pitch for two months. Legally, they have the authority to void my contract. They're not saying that they would exercise that right, but they wanted me to be informed."
Pitchers and catchers will report to spring training in 109 days, Dickey is set to make $4,250,000 next season, by far the highest salary of his life. He's taking part in the Mount Kilimanjaro climb to benefit Red Light District Outreach Mumbai, which battles human trafficking in India, but Dickey understands where his employer is coming from.
"Although, on paper, the climb seems like a fantastic thing to get behind, it's been tough," he said. "They (Mets) view it as a dangerous thing. Of course, it's a risk I'm willing to take. I know what I'm doing well enough to know it's nothing more than a glorified hike. There are no technical climbing skills involved -- it's not like Everest or K-2 or Fuji. So I'm not real worried about it."
In junior high school, Dickey read Hemingway's "The Snows of Kilimanjaro", which inspired his climbing dreams. The short story details a character who regrets his entire life and ends up dying of gangrene. Dickey talked to New York Mag about what drove him to make this giant climb:
"The scope of the mountain resonated with me. It wasn't necessarily the plot. I read the book in eighth grade -- when, of course, you don't have the means or wherewithal to tackle something like climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. I always thought it would be a fantastic pilgrimage to hike to the summit. For years, I -- the way that we do -- we file things in our minds, in cabinets deep in the recesses of our brains. And then it just came back out."
Dickey will be taking a couple of his baseball buddies with him, including a former teammate from the Twins. "I'm including a couple of friends in the climb," he told the magazine. "Kevin Slowey from the Minnesota Twins and Dave Racaniello, the bullpen catcher for the New York Mets organization. We're going to the summit, Uhuru Peak, which is a little under 20,000 feet."
Triathlon training has been a part of the Mets pitcher's off-season training over the past few years as he gets ready for the new season. But Dickey plans to bring along something extra to Mount Kilimanjaro just in case. "I have an altitude training mask that I can work out in, sleep in, walk in. It emulates, let's say, being at 10,000 feet, and there’s a nozzle that you screw on that emulates being at 15,000 and then 20,000, and so on. But I won’t be going to any high altitudes to train. I don't have the time. I've got a family of four, and I'm gone so much anyway."
It's gonna be a busy January for Dickey; later that month he'll become the 18th person inducted into the Tennessee Baseball Hall of Fame joining such legends as Todd Helton and Phil Garner.
R.A. Dickey talked in the minors about his switch to throwing a knuckleball.
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