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Class is in session with R.A. Dickey
The professor walked into the classroom with a pair of stylish white sunglasses resting on a mop of brown hair. He wore jeans and a Star Wars stormtrooper T-shirt.
But that's what you get when school is in session with R.A. Dickey.
The Mets knuckleballer -- and serious Cy Young contender -- turned the press conference room at Citi Field into a classroom, leading a question-and-answer session with 10 sports journalism students from NYU and Rutgers. Funny, humble and at times strikingly honest, Dickey talked about a life with as many turns as his knuckleball, while also offering practical advice for the aspiring reporters.
“When I get interviewed by a sports writer after a game -- in spring training, doing a feature, whatever it is -- I always pay attention to the question,” he said. “A lot of people will not. The people that you interview that will be your better interviews will challenge you in that they will pay attention to what you ask. If someone gives me a question that doesn't have much heart to it, then they're going to get an answer that doesn't have much heart to it.
“Eighty percent of the time you're going to get the person that doesn't really care. And he's going to say 'How does it feel to be in the big leagues?' 'It's a dream come true.' I mean that's what you're going to get, when the real answer is much deeper than that. And that's what connects with the reader.”
Dickey speaks from plenty of experience, on both sides of the spectrum. He's a popular interview subject in the Mets clubhouse given his success and his thoughtful quotes. And he's also written an autobiography, Wherever I Wind Up.
“When I have something that I want to share, I will find the guy that I trust the most in the clubhouse,” Dickey said. “And the way that I gauge that is how the person has asked questions. How he has been curious. What has he been curious about? What has he done with some of my teammates? How has he presented an argument? The smarter players, the players you're going to want the stories from mostly, will pay attention to that kind of stuff.”
Jennifer Woo, a junior at NYU who wants to be a broadcast journalist, took the lessons to heart; even if she didn't know much about the teacher until recently.
“I honestly didn't know who R.A. Dickey was or what a knuckleball pitcher was before I read his book,” she said. “He was as eloquent in person as he was in his book. He has such a huge heart for what he does and he owns up to everything he has done. He's not ashamed of anything.”
The event was organized by Joe Lapointe, a sports journalism professor at NYU and Rutgers who's covered Dickey with the Mets.
“I've seen R.A. around for three years and I always thought he was an interesting person and an intellectual person,” he said. “Now that I'm teaching a sports reporting class, I thought this would be the perfect athlete for some of my students to meet early in the semester. It would give them encouragement about the possibilities of interviewing athletes and what you can draw out of them. Obviously R.A. Dickey is an extraordinary interview. He's a very good speaker, he's a very good thinker and he combines the two well.”
Just what you look for in a professor. Even the ones who show up for class in a Star Wars T-shirt.