Last fall Dale Dickerson exchanged his cleats for a pair of dress shoes and took a job behind a desk.
“It was a real good job. It was a good opening with benefits and everything, but I just wasn’t ready to start that part of my life.”
After three and a half years pitching in the Indians’ farm system, working at a computer all day for his hometown newspaper just wasn’t the same.
On the side, Dickerson was giving pitching lessons. Of course he would throw occasionally himself. “The ball started jumping out of my hand, and that’s when I got the call from the Crushers.”
That call came from Lake Erie Crushers’ new manager Jeff Isom, but if Dickerson finds success closing for the Crushers this season, he will have teammate Alex Kaminsky to thank.
When the Crushers made a trade to acquire Kaminsky, the former Mahoning Valley Scrapper told his new coach about a relief pitcher that the team should really look into signing. A former teammate named Dickerson.
Dickerson was drafted in the 16th round (485 overall) in 2009. He pitched in the Arizona fall instructional league in 2009, and reported to Mahoning Valley at the start of 2010. In 2011, Dickerson had his best year as a pro. Starting in Lake County and eventually getting moving up to AA Akron, Dale finished the season with a very respectable 2.51 ERA.
In fact, for his career Dickerson has pretty respectable numbers. A 10-6 record, 3.64 ERA, 7 saves, 168.0 IP, 124 strikeouts. Then come the negatives: 104 walks, 5.6 walks per nine innings pitched and a 1.51 WHIP. During his 2012 season, those numbers ballooned to 7.6 BB/9 and a 1.74 WHIP.
Dickerson just couldn’t find the strike zone. He was released in mid-July.
If he is to find success in the Frontier League, Dickerson knows he will have to find better control and throw strikes.
Following his release, the side-armer thought his career was finished. “I decided I was going to give the real world a shot.” Dickerson said Monday at Lake Erie’s media day. That “real world” was back home near West Monroe, Louisiana. If that sounds familiar, you may be a fan of the Duck Dynasty reality show. That or you paid pretty close attention to where Barkevious Mingo played his high school ball. The first round draft pick of the Cleveland Browns also hails from that area.
It wasn’t hard for Dale to make the decision to return to baseball. “There’s a routine you get used to playing baseball, and I was ready to get back into it.”
This year Dickerson has a goal. “I want to come in here and be the pitcher I know I can be. Come in throwing strikes and help the team win. I want to try to get to the next level and get out of here.”
That’s an attitude that coach Isom wants from his players. “I always tell my players if you’re not here to get signed with a major league club, I don’t want you. I want guys that have the desire to move on. I don’t want guys that are complacent, that this is just a summer job.”
But is it even possible? Can a player go from the Independent leagues back into affiliated ball? Of course it is. For inspiration, Dickerson can just gaze 22 miles to the East. Cleveland’s Scott Kazmir was throwing pitches last year for the Sugarland Skeeters. While Kazmir has had success at the major league level, a 3-6 record with a 5.34 ERA in the Atlantic League didn’t bode well.
If Dickerson is able to throw strikes and cut down on his walks, he has a chance to play affiliated ball again. He’s healthy, and though he’s 26 he has a lot of life left in his arm. His style will remind you a bit of the Tribe’s Joe Smith. The Crushers are going to hand the ball to Dale to close out games. What he does with the opportunity will determine if he keeps on pitching, or hands in his spikes once again for a white collar career.