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InMarket: What’s your knuckleball?

The knuckleball is deceptively simple. The pitch slows down the movement of the ball making its path unpredictable. It’s not easy to either throw or hit. Ah, isn’t it more than a little bit like life?

R. A. Dickey is the only pitcher currently working in Major League Baseball who throws a knuckleball as his main pitch. He learned the knuckleball after a pitching career – including five years with the Texas Rangers – that looked to be over. The Rangers, to their credit, allowed him to attempt the pitching style, but the first few attempts were unsuccessful and his career took a downward trajectory. But he eventually perfected the pitch and has since gone on to extend his career, earning the Cy Young Award in 2012. Now Dickey, the 39-year-old pitcher who once seemed to be washed up, takes the mound to the menacing “Imperial March” theme from “Star Wars ” (the Darth Vader theme, if that jogs your memory). He is currently with the Toronto Blue Jays, now atop the American League’s East Division.

While Dickey left the Rangers in 2006, he is back in this area – not as a pitcher but as the pitchman for a program from locally based global workwear company Williamson-Dickie Mfg. Co. From now through July 22, Dickey and Dickies are asking people to share how hard work and dedication have helped them stare down the knuckleballs life has thrown them. “R.A. was able to master the knuckleball – a feat that only a handful can claim,” said Dickies Marketing Chief Matthew McCartin. “The knuckleball has become a symbol of the challenges our brand’s fans face each day. Like R.A., they have a never-give-up attitude whether they’re on or off the job.”

The “Throw Us Your Knuckleball” contest is an extension of Dickies’ Built To Work brand campaign. Dickey, the pitcher, is a busy guy. Besides that little job with the Toronto Blue Jays, and promoting the Dickies brand, the former English major recently published his first children’s book, “Knuckleball Ned.” “My baseball career has been all about working harder than the next guy and persevering when my back was against the wall,” Dickey said in a recent interview. Dickey said he liked the idea of sharing stories of perseverance as a way to help others see that tough times may look overwhelming but can be overcome. “It’s tough. We all have our own personal narrative. Going to the Dickies Facebook page and sharing your story might impact another person for the better.” Dickey noted that sharing these stories can help someone else and they can help the storyteller as well. “For me, sharing some of the things I’ve had to walk through has been a very cathartic experience. I think we can use this God-given narrative to motivate someone else to change their life and live a different way,” he said. Dickey said when he talks to groups he tells his own story. “In 2006, I thought about giving up and [my wife] stepped up and said ‘I don’t want you to have a singular regret.’ That really helped me, so I continued to pursue the knuckleball and it’s worked out. You have to find that strength,” he said.  

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Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

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