Winning only a bronze medal in Olympics motivates R.A. Dickey for WBC

Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher R.A. Dickey throws

Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher R.A. Dickey throws against the Philadelphia Phillies during the first inning of a spring training baseball game. (March 2, 2013) (Credit: AP)

PHOENIX -- As much as the World Baseball Classic can feel like a manufactured event, an instrument designed to expand the game's global marketing appeal, there are moments that suggest otherwise.

For R.A. Dickey, who will start Friday's opener for Team USA against Mexico, it's about vindication. Dickey has spent his entire career attempting to prove the skeptics wrong, and now he's hoping to finish a job another group of Americans couldn't complete during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

That team, which included Dickey, wound up with the bronze medal. Slipping on the USA jersey again, Dickey is experiencing those same feelings again. Patriotism and dashed dreams.

"I think the thing that stands out the most is coming up short," Dickey said before Thursday's workout at Chase Field. "That was one of my motivations for wanting to be a part of this experience. It was an incredible honor standing on the podium, when I bent my neck down and had them place an Olympic medal around my head. It's an experience I'll never forget.

"So in my eyes, that's what I'm playing for, a gold medal. I don't know what kind of trophy we get or pendant or ring or whatever it is, but it's a gold medal for me."

Dickey spoke of wanting to beat Cuba in '96, but Team USA didn't advance far enough to play them in the championship game. The challenge this time is melding 28 players, culled from their individual spring training sites, into a winning roster.

Team USA's best showing was in 2009, when it reached the semifinals. Japan has won both of the previous WBC titles.

"It's not about talent as much as it's about spirit, heart, desire," Dickey said. "In international tournament competition, talent doesn't always win. Over the course of 162 games, it's a little bit better of a barometer. If you've got really good talent, you're probably going to be one of the playoff teams.

"But in tournament play, it's a little different. So you want guys around you who are all in."

Manager Joe Torre believes he has that with this crew, even minus first baseman Mark Teixeira, who had to be sent back to New York with a strained wrist tendon. Teixeira sought out Torre to be on this team, just as Dickey did in contacting union rep Tony Clark about pitching in. The members of Team USA insist they're not just taking part in the tournament for the exercise.

"We're here to win," Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips said. "Or at least get to the final game. I want to look good on TV."

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