R.A. Dickey: Did Mt. Kilimanjaro Turn New York Mets Pitcher into an All-Star?

James Kaminsky@jameskam17Contributor IIIJune 6, 2012

Celebrating after defeating the St. Louis Cardinals 5-0
Celebrating after defeating the St. Louis Cardinals 5-0Mike Stobe/Getty Images

For New York Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey, trekking up Mt. Kilimanjaro was all he needed to elevate his game to the next level. 

Standing 19,341 feet above sea level, Mt. Kilimanjaro is the tallest mountain in Africa. And even though the Mets warned him persistently (via Newsday), letting him know that his $4.5 million contract was at risk, Dickey climbed on.

That has been his best decision yet.

Not only is Dickey under-appreciated and under-valued because of his knuckleball and mid-80s fastball, he is 37 years old, which is years older than the Mets' team age average of 29.6.

But climbing the mountain didn't enhance his pitches or change the way he saw the strike zone. Tackling a challenge like climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro builds confidence, and sometimes confidence is all you need.

This year, Dickey has pitched fantastic, leading the league with his 8-1 record to date, and an astonishing 2.69 ERA, lower than his 4.20 career ERA average.

Following teammate Johan Santana's no-hitter, a day when many teammates might be distracted and a day when his opponents would be hungrier than ever, Dickey pitched a complete game, shutting out the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals

The Mets might have been worried back in December, but they are celebrating early in June. Heading into what could be a huge turning point in the Mets' season this weekend, a showdown with the rival New York Yankees, Dickey is on track to be an All-Star, and maybe even start for the National League.

Dickey gained the confidence and strength needed to rectify his career on his journey. Overcoming the elements of altitude sickness, dizziness, nausea and fatigue, he mentally persevered and lifted himself to Africa's highest peak. While some pitchers mull over climbing on top of the mound, Dickey climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro.

And that has made all the difference.