R.A. Dickey is a name you probably wouldn’t have given much thought until a couple years ago when the aging veteran pitcher came virtually out of nowhere to become one of the more consistent pitchers in baseball, albeit with baseball’s most inconsistent and unpredictable pitch.
The journey of how he got there, from a hard-throwing phenom pitcher to a career minor leaguer whose mastery of the knuckleball gave him an unlikely second shot at a career in the big leagues is detailed in a book even Phillies fans can appreciate. Save for the redemption story of Josh Hamilton, sports biographies tend to be dime a dozen books you could easily interchange with different star names. Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity, and the Perfect Knuckleball is anything but interchangeable.
For starters, Dickey doesn’t hold back on the gritty details of his story or the mistakes he’s made along the way. From a childhood marred by sexual abuse and a career of dramatic ups and downs to a marriage he almost ruined with infidelity and a personal battle with depression, Dickey shoots straight and weaves a narrative that is as much about a struggle for acceptance, contentment, forgiveness and grace as it is about striking hitters out.
Throughout the book it’s not hard as a reader to get a sense of what next? because his story seems to be piled high with so much in terms of struggle we never associate with seven-figure earners who strap on cleats to go to work. From the horrors of being abused by a babysitter and a peer to the future brother-in-law whose friendship leads Dickey to find hope in Christ to insanely stupid decisions like trying to swim across the Missouri River and nearly drowning and bad luck – after being drafted Dickey’s huge signing bonus vanished when a surgeon discovered he was missing a ligament in his throwing arm – it’s a story that makes putting the book down (or turning of the ereader) a difficult task.
Even knowing where his story ends up – Dickey is in the running for the National League Cy Young award this season – makes passages like one where he describes his near-suicidal mission swimming across the Missouri a painfully emotional read and the string of minor league stops along the way almost comically endless. When the hard work finally pays off and the redemption part of the story comes, the tale you get isn’t the one you hear on ESPN. The true redemption story, as Dickey tells it, is found in Dickey’s surrender once and for all to the sin he had let defeat him for so long. Through a lot of prayer, painful counseling sessions and the support of an incredibly strong wife who wasn’t ready to give up on him yet, Dickey shares how he finally allowed himself to give everything, baseball included, and relinquish full control of his life and marriage to Christ.
He captures this ever so eloquently when he writes:
When I pray, I am not just talking to God. I am deepening my relationship with Him. To me, prayer is not a me-driven, goal-driven endeavor, something I turn to when I really need to pitch a dominant game or get out of a tight spot or a personal crisis. I’ve never prayed to God and said, “Lord, please let me strike out Albert Pujols four times tonight.” Nor will I ever do that. God is not a genie in a bottle that you rub when you want something. He is the ever-present, ever-loving Father, the guiding Spirit of my life, my Light and my Truth. He has a plan for me; I believe that as much as I believe anything in my whole life, and even if I don’t end up flourishing in New York or proving myself to be a trustworthy big-league pitcher, I know that’s because He has something else in store for me, and whatever that is, I know that I will be at peace.
This book probably won’t make you a Mets fan, but it will likely have you paying more attention to the Cy Young race than you otherwise would have before.
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