R.A. Dickey, 2012 Cy Young Award winner and Toronto Blue Jays knuckleball pitcher, earned the United States Sports Academy’s 2013 Jackie Robinson Humanitarian Award for his inspiring work with Bombay Teen Challenge (BTC) in India to help sexually abused women and children.
Dickey began serving the BTC—a Christian organization that has rescued women and children from sex trafficking for nearly 23 years—because he was sexually abused growing up. He shared about his wounded past in his stirring autobiography, “Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball.”
Academy Board of Trustees member Tom Cafaro, a longtime executive at Nichols College and NCAA Division I Lacrosse Player of the Year for West Point in 1971, presented the Humanitarian Award Aug. 10 to Dickey during a pregame ceremony at the Rogers Centre in Toronto.
The Jackie Robinson Humanitarian Award is presented annually to an individual, like Dickey, who has demonstrated a concern for mankind. This individual exhibits the qualities of dedication, grace under pressure, personal sacrifice, compassion, hope, and dignity that characterize the promotion of human welfare and social reform.
Jack Roosevelt Robinson broke the baseball color barrier by displaying his skills, while at the same time subjugating his pride, to prove an awareness of our failings, as well as his abilities. Had he lacked the discipline, not to mention the dedication, America and sport would be spiritually and athletically poorer.
This January, Dickey traveled to Mumbai, India, where he saw firsthand the redemptive work of BTC. During the trip, Dickey also helped celebrate the opening of a clinic in the midst of Mumbai’s red-light district—a clinic he helped pay for by raising more than $100,000 by climbing Mount Kilmanjaro last winter.
“If the organization rescues one human life from that hell, then it’s done its job in some way,” Dickey said. “You’re talking over the last 23 years over 1,000 lives being rescued, given a second chance to have a life, rescuing children, people who were left for dead on doorsteps of these brothels. How do you measure success? I think it’s one life at a time.”
Dickey is known as one of baseball’s most successful pitchers and the only knuckleballer to ever be awarded Major League Baseball’s top pitching honor—the Cy Young Award. But Dickey didn’t get to that success without overcoming his own challenges.
Dickey recently shared stories about his difficult journey climbing to the top of professional baseball and the lessons he learned along the way in a film posted online by I Am Second, a movement meant to inspire through stories of hope and transformation.
Having been molested and raped as a child, Dickey faced feelings of unworthiness as he coped with his abuse, hiding it from the world.
“Within sports I found I could control my destiny,” Dickey said. “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.”
Dickey has not only identified himself as a distinguished baseball player, but as a selfless individual who truly cares in helping better the lives of others.
“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.”