ATLANTA -- R.A. Dickey is one of the lucky few.
That's what the 42-year-old pitcher had to say about joining the Atlanta Braves.
Dickey was the first MLB free agent to sign with a new team this offseason. The Nashville native said the decision to sign his $8 million one-year offer was relatively easy after telling his wife and kids the team approached him. They immediately began dancing at the thought of their husband and dad pitching for their "hometown" team.
"I consider myself one of the lucky few to play for a team I've always idolized growing up," Dickey said at an event at SunTrust Park.
Growing up one state to the north, Dickey would imitate the legends that wore the baby blue uniform and the cap with the lowercase A he would watch on TV.
That was a long time ago.
Dickey has been back and forth from the American League to National League, only to go back to the American since beginning his major league career with the Dallas Texans in 2001. He spent three seasons with the New York Mets, where he regularly faced the Braves. He was traded to Toronto in 2013, where he made it to the postseason twice, including this past October.
He doesn't mind returning to the National League, especially since he won't be going up against first baseman Freddie Freeman any longer. Dickey said the two-time All-Star gave him "fits" earlier in his career.
“I'm thankful that if I'm going to come back to the National League, that I don't have to face that guy anymore," he said.
Dickey isn't ignorant. He knows his age. He knows his marquee knuckleball pitch is a "pitch of desperation," as he put it. He knows he's in Atlanta to buy the Braves more time to develop their prized farm system. He knows this because that's exactly what General Manager John Coppolella told him.
"These are the guys we are trying to protect," Dickey said Coppolella told him. "We need a way to protect them by having guys that can eat innings and pitch big innings."
Whether or not Dickey can put up as many inning as the Braves need from him is the question. In 2015, he ranked tenth in MLB in innings pitched (214.1) and second in the league for games started (33). His innings pitched, quality starts and win percentage all dropped significantly while only starting four less games in 2016.
Regardless, his 14 seasons in the league is nothing to scoff at. Neither is a NL Cy Young Award, which he won in 2012 while leading the league in strikeouts.
Hopefully the Braves’ prized young pitchers soak in everything Dickey has to say.
“There are going to be young guys on the team. That as important for me in the sense that I feel like over time, I've been able to have a lot of experience, and I think one of my roles on the team hopefully is going to be share some of that experience in an effort to help shape some of those pitchers. I certainly needed that when I was a young pitcher. I had guys step into my life as a baseball player and teach me things I still apply today.”