HE’S GOT THE WOW FACTOR
Blinn's Dickey spent summer transforming a good pitcher into great
Robbie Dickey was a good high school pitcher in Texas.
Good high school pitchers rarely get Division I offers.
Dickey had three offers out of high school, all Texas junior colleges. He picked Blinn College and things have just kept getting better for the sophomore right-hander.
Good pitchers never make it to Major League Baseball. But great pitchers do.
Robbie Dickey went from good to great in one year.
His improvement was no fluke and there were no shortcuts to his surprising surge.
“I work pretty hard, I take a lot of pride in that,” Dickey said on Sunday.
But to be a major league prospect, it takes more than talent and hard work.
In pitching, the missing equation to potential can many times be found in tweaking the mechanics and the delivery. That’s what Dickey did. He went to Houston over the summer to get some high-level coaching.
“It took my work ethic in the weight room and matched it with my mechanics that are a lot better than they were, and it all came together at the right time,” he said.
Coming together is an overpowering understatement.
Earlier this spring, the humble, confident well-spoken 20-year-old was tabbed the No. 1 amateur prospect in the nation regardless of position by Perfect Game, one of the premier scouting organizations.
He’s dropped down a few spots since, but he’s still being projected to be a second- to fifth-round pick in the June amateur draft.
Pitching is like an orchestra, all the moving parts must come together to form a fluid and succinct movement. Maximizing power from the lower body, getting the hips to rotate accurately, having the shoulder, arm, wrist work in unison and in perfect alignment are the mechanics that helped Dickey go from a good junior college pitcher to a major league prospect.
“It was more about getting everything to work with each other,” he said about his mechanics.
Still, the results are knee-buckling.
He went from a good fastball that ranged from 88 to 92 mph, to a 95 mph fastball.
He’s hit 96 before, he admits with a grin.
The wow factor
When the Buccaneers started the season this fall, Dickey could see that his work in the summer had paid off.
“I really felt like the ball was coming out better than it used to,” he said. “I didn’t know how hard I was throwing, but I knew it was coming out better, and I was commanding the strike zone.”
After obliterating his teammates in intrasquad scrimmages, Dickey knew that he was hitting another gear.
“I was blowing it by guys and I was like ‘Whoa, this is coming out pretty good,’ ” he said with a chuckle.
Blinn coach Harvey McIntyre said he saw Dickey’s potential in high school, but he, too, was hit with the wow factor this fall.
“His first bullpen back, I’m thinking, ‘Oh, my! That corner you talk about turning, he did it.’ “
McIntyre knew Dickey was destined to become a special pitcher.
“As a freshman in the fall he was throwing 85-88 miles per hour,” he said “He finished last year throwing 88-92. He started getting more physical, growing into that body.”
The first test with MLB scouts is usually the radar gun and with Dickey’s fastball hitting 95, it didn’t take long for the 6-foot-3, 210-pound Texan to land on the radar of scouts.
At one scrimmage, three scouts showed up. The next scrimmage a whole squadron showed up. Fifteen deep, all with notebooks and radar guns, they watched.
At a game this spring, McIntyre estimated there were more than 40 scouts in attendance.
Throughout the season, Dickey continued to impress.
In a Texas/New Mexico junior college all-star game, the radar gun flashed “95” and Dickey struck out five of the six hitters he faced.
Then he struck out 15 batters in a game against then-No. 5 ranked Navarro College (Texas). Then he flirted with a no-hitter in the first round of the district tournament, taking it into the seventh.
As a student of the game, Dickey knows that throwing in the mid-90s doesn’t automatically equate to success on the mound.
“Even at this level, there’s guys who can hit (95 mph fastballs) if it’s coming right down the middle,” he said. “So you look at the pros, and there’s guys hitting 100 miles per hour.
“You still have to control it, you have to able to put it where you want to.”
He now throws four pitches — fastball, curve, change-up and cutter, which reacts like a slider.
Dickey said the old adage of baseball is “90 percent mental and 10 percent physical” is as true as it gets.
After picking up the win in Blinn’s 7-4 victory in the first round of the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series, Dickey was still disappointed with his outing.
“It wasn’t a horrible performance but it wasn’t the best performance,” he said.
Against Cochise and its patient hitters, Dickey struggled with his command and walked six. But he only gave up three hits and nine of the 16 outs he registered were strikeouts.
Not bad, but not great. Now, Dickey wants another shot at the JUCO stage.
“I just want to go out there and do what I know I’m capable of doing,” he said. “I just want to go out there and let the guys behind me have the feeling that there’s no doubt that we’re going to win this game.”
Dickey, who called Saturday’s game at Suplizio Field the biggest baseball stage he’s ever been part of, would love that opportunity after a good, but not great, first game.
Come June 5, Dickey, his family and friends will crowd about the TV and watch and hope.
There’s little doubt the name “Robbie Dickey” will be called in the draft, the real question is when and where.
If he decides to bypass professional baseball for another year, he has a scholarship waiting at Texas State University in San Marcos.
But he’s dreamed of playing in the big leagues ever since he first took the diamond as a 5-year-old dreamer.
Even today, he’s dreaming big, and dreaming of a faster fastball.
“It’s funny, my goal was 93-94, then when I heard I was hitting 93, I thought I definitely could throw harder,” he said, then smiled. “Hitting 98-99 is definitely a goal, but before you hit those, you have to learn how to pitch first.”
Seems like Robbie Dickey has learned and improved a lot in a short time.
Now, he would like to hear his name called one more time at JUCO before he hears it called in June.