Wednesday, November 2, 2011
R.A. Dickey to climb Mount Kilimanjaro
By Mike Mazzeo
Special to ESPNNewYork.com
New York Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey is going to climb Mount Kilimanjaro -- even if his team isn't all that thrilled about the potentially dangerous adventure.
Dickey is set to scale the 19,000-foot Tanzanian mountain in January to raise money for the Red Light District Outreach Mumbai, which combats human trafficking in India. The Mets aren't all that keen about it, and Dickey understands that he could risk forfeiting his entire 2012 salary if he gets injured during the climb.
Dickey signed a two-year, $8 million extension with the Mets last January. New York holds a club option on the 37-year-old veteran for 2013.
"Yeah. I'm a grown man, and I can do what I want to do," Dickey said in an interview with 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. Although, on paper, the climb seems like a fantastic thing to get behind, it's been tough. They 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."
Dickey got his inspiration to climb the mountain from Ernest Hemingway's "The Snows of Kilimanjaro," which he read in eighth grade. Dickey had always hoped to get the opportunity, even though it was just a dream to this point in his life. He will be joined on the climb by two of his friends -- Minnesota Twins pitcher Kevin Slowey and Mets bullpen catcher Dave Racaniello. They're going to the summit, Uhuru Peak.
"The scope of the mountain resonated with me," Dickey told the magazine. "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."
Dickey's training regimen is a unique one.
"I've done some triathlon training over the past 2½ years in the offseason to get ready for spring training," Dickey said. "Outside of that, 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."
Even though he's bringing his bullpen catcher, Dickey laughed when asked about throwing his knuckleball on Kilimanjaro.
"I need real thick air. So I'm not even going to attempt a knuckleball because I'm afraid I would embarrass myself," Dickey said. "At the summit, it's just not going to do much. Hopefully, I'll be able to breathe up there, much less throw a knuckleball."
Even before this adventure, Dickey had enough life experience to share. He will be releasing his memoir, "Wherever I Wind Up", in March.
Mike Mazzeo is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.