Originally written on Legend of Cecilio Guante  |  Last updated 6/3/12

Dickey. Dealing.

The best story in baseball this season, keeps getting better. Sure, I’m a biased Mets fan. But I want to meet the real baseball zealot that isn’t grinning ear-to-ear at and pulling for one R.A. Dickey to continue his dominant early run. At this point in sports, there are few folks I’m happier to seeing having success – for so many reasons.

Dickey’s “story” may be old hat to some Mets fans, but I never get sick of it. ClifNotes-style. Here’s a former number one draft pick with a missing elbow joint who was teetering on the brink of extinction in 2006 when he made the transition to the knuckleball.  One could argue that he was no further from obsolescence in January of 2010, when the Mets signed him to a minor-league contract.

Dickey finished 2010 with a career-high 11 wins, posting an 11-9 mark with a 2.84 ERA in 174.1 innings. It was obvious to fans that this was a new man. A legitimate starter who had begun to truly understand and command a pitch that, when controlled, can be baffling to hitters. Mets management reached the same conclusion in January of 2011 and rewarded Dickey with a 2-year multi-million dollar deal  that included a million dollar signing bonus. Welcome back to the bigs, R.A. He followed up his impressive 2010 season by tossing 208 innings in 2011 while going 8-13 with a 3.28 ERA. The record did not belie how well Dickey again pitched. Last year’s Mets did him no justice.

And while the Mets and their fans have now become strangely accustomed to quality starts from Dickey, no one could have realistically expected what’s happened out of the gates in 2012. Dickey is off to a start that has been simply spectacular. He most recently tossed a five-hit complete game shutout in Saturday afternoon’s contest against the hitting-heavy St. Louis Cardinals. The win upped his record to 8-1 on the season and lowered his ERA to 2.69. Over his last three starts, Dickey’s pitched 23.1 innings and surrendered 15 hits while striking out 30 and walking one.

The story of a pitching prospect reborn at the twilight of his career as a crafty knuckeballer is intriguing enough alone. Add to it that Dickey is a tremendous off-field guy, and knowing of some of his tribulations as a younger man (his recent book Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball, talks about incidents of sexual abuse as a child and his struggles with suicidal thoughts later in life), it’s nearly impossible not to root for this guy and follow the journey.

This past fall, Dickey took to Mt. Kilimanjaro as part of “Bombay Teen Challenge,” a group of climbers that took on the challenge to help raise money and awareness of human trafficking in India. It tells you a lot about the kind of man Dickey is and his character as a person. His performance as a pitcher is starting to be equally noteworthy.

Don’t look now, but if he can keep it up, the next hill he could be climbing is the mound at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City — as the NL starter in the All-Star Game. It might be a long shot, but Dickey’s already proved he’s conquered higher peaks before. All-Star Game starter would seem a befitting summit. We hope he gets there.

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