(Photo: Reuters/Fred Thornhill)
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher, R.A. Dickey, has teamed up with the I Am Second movement to reveal his testimony about his childhood rape, attempt at suicide, career lows and the precise moment that led him to surrender to God.
Dickey is known as the only knuckleball pitcher in the history of baseball to be awarded Major League Baseball's top pitching honor, the Cy Young Award. But before his career skyrocketed, his personal life was shaken with events that followed him into adulthood. The athlete recently sat down to share intimate details of his life in the video that debuted today.
"The first time that it happened was with a female babysitter, I was eight," said Dickey, describing his encounter with rape. "The next thing you know, you're in the dark, you're sweating, your clothes are off and you don't know why, you don't know what's going on and it's very confusing."
In the video, he recounts the scene of the incident in a calm, collected demeanor, but appears pensive over the details he wishes to forget.
"My most vivid memory is the smell. The smell of the room, the dark, the smell of my own perspiration. It just smelled like something is happening that shouldn't be happening," said Dickey.
"I remember by the third or fourth time thinking, 'ok, just do what you're going to do and just get it over with,'" he added.
Later that summer, Dickey was violently assaulted and raped again, but this time by a male.
"I was by a dilapidated garage, it was a stranger. I knew that I was about to be raped, I knew that it was coming…I remember looking up from the ground and seeing that guy and running away. And I remember the sound; I remember the sound of his belt buckle jingling," said Dickey.
At the age of 13, when the abuse came to an end, Dickey says he prayed to be withdrawn from the shame, guilt and feelings of inadequacy that he felt. However, he found himself consumed by his pain to the point of becoming irate with God. Eventually, his focus to make up for what he thought were his shortcomings, came by way of baseball.
"Within sports I found I could control my destiny," said Dickey. "If you followed the formula as an athlete, you would be rewarded for that. So, that was not only how I escaped, but found a lot of validation and identity as I grew up."
He attributed baseball as the source for his happiness, which he soon realized was only a temporary solution to the internal issues he kept to himself.
After earning a scholarship to the University of Tennessee, Dickey became a first-round draft pick for the Texas Rangers and was offered an $800,000 contract, a dream that he envisioned since he was nine. However, before debuting his star potential on the field, Dickey was called to meet with Texas Rangers executives who would decide the fate of his career.
"The general manger of the Rangers told me they were going to take the offer off the table because they felt there was something wrong with my elbow. They weren't sure that they were going to even sign me," said Dickey.
Team doctors discovered he lacked an ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow, which they felt would affect his pitching, causing his contract to scale back to $75,000.
"At that moment, for the first time, I felt a wind-like feeling wash over me and the feeling was 'it's OK, I've got you' and that's all I remember," recalls Dickey.
Following that incident, Dickey spent the next nine years in the minor leagues, fighting for a chance in the MLB, until he got his break as a knuckleball pitcher in 2006.
"On my first outing, I tied a modern-day major league record for the most homeruns given up in a game, with six. The next day, I was taken off the roster," said Dickey.
It was this rejection that triggered his suicide attempt, which he says ultimately did not happen due to divine intervention.
"In my darkest moment, I was just sitting in a driveway with a rubber hose duct taped to the exhaust pipe that ran into the window. The window was rolled up with a towel packed around the slit that the window created and my hand was on the key," said Dickey. "The only thing that saved me in that moment was that feeling that God was sitting right beside me in the passenger's seat and whispering to me all the while, 'do not turn that key, I've got something else for you.'"
So he didn't.
He also recounts an incident where he could have died when he decided to swim across the Missouri River to impress his teammates. After swimming for a few minutes, the river's shifting channels and high turbidity drifted him far from the banks. Dickey recalls that moment of despair made him ask God for forgiveness and after maneuvering through the water, he was safe on shore.
From that point on, he focused his life "living for the next 5 minutes."
"For so long, I hung on tight to my career, my identity as a baseball player and It seemed that God was cranking my fingers back so that he could get at it the way that he wanted it, and I got to the place where I wanted to open my hand," said Dickey,
Now, he says his past and career highlights draw similar parallels to his newfound relationship with God.
"The knuckleball can be a metaphor for what it's like to let go," Dickey said. "When you throw a knuckleball well, the only thing you care about is releasing the ball toward its target without spin. To release a ball that doesn't spin, you have to surrender to the outcome in a way that you don't with other pitches. For me personally, God's in my mechanics, too. The surrender for me doesn't happen when I release the pitch, it happens when I wake up in the morning – having to surrender to every moment from then until I close my eyes at night."