Then the Cubs took a chance on the 6-foot-5 right-hander on Day 3 of the 2011 Draft and he knew he had been thrown a lifeline.
On Tuesday, Dickson turned in the finest outing of his young Minor League career. The New York native fired six no-hit innings and the short-season Boise Hawks carried the bid into the eighth frame en route to a 2-1 win over the Yakima Bears.
"It went according to plan," Dickson said. "I threw my fastball and my breaking ball for strikes and I kept my changeup down in the zone.
"First time through the lineup, I threw primarily fastballs to get ahead. Then the second and third times through, my off-speed was working. I could throw my slider for first-pitch strikes and my changeup as a swing-through."
Only two batters got on base against Dickson, who was perfect through the first five innings.
Ronnie Freeman reached on shortstop Stephen Bruno's fielding error to begin the sixth, the only ball Dickson said was hit hard all evening against him. Two batters later, Bruno misplayed Josh Parr's ground ball.
But Dickson set down Daniel Poma for the second out of the inning and he struck out his final batter of the night, Kevin Medrano, before placing the no-hitter in the hands of the bullpen.
"It was Aug. 2, 2010. It was the final start I had in the Virginia Baseball League," the 6-foot-5 right-hander said of the last no-hitter he was involved in. "It was my last start I made before pro ball.
"Guys say they aren't aware of [no-hitters and perfect games], but it was in the back of my mind tonight. I just tried to focus on my pitches on the mound. My catcher, Carlos Escobar, called a great game. I kept a good tempo and started my delivery as soon as possible once the umpire said play."
Dickson said he would "have been delighted" to come back out for the seventh, but he knew he was on a pitch limit of 75 pitches or six frames, depending on how things were working out. He exited after throwing 71 pitches through six.
Hunter Ackerman took the no-no bid into the eighth, but Ronnie Freeman broke it up with a leadoff single to center field. Michael Lang followed with a base hit to left, and both runners advanced on Parr's groundout. Daniel Poma then shattered the shutout with a run-scoring ground ball to first base.
Michael Hamann retired the final two batters in the ninth to earn his first save.
Dickson (2-3) lowered his ERA more than a run to 5.06 with the win.
He tore the ACL meniscus in his left knee going into his junior season at Lafayette College in 2010. He underwent surgery in the middle of December that year and the Cubs -- fully aware of the injury -- took a chance on him in the 35th round of the following June's Draft.
Dickson signed above slot at the deadline in August, and a month later, he went to the instructional league, where he started pitching in competitive games again.
"It was reassuring to know they were willing to invest the time in me," said Dickson, who throws a four-seam and two-seam fastball, a changeup and two variations of slider -- one of which he says is like a curveball, the other more like a cut-fastball.
"It gave me confidence and allowed me to do what I'm doing now. It's nice to know they had that confidence in me even though I hadn't pitched in nearly a year. I was fortunate enough to be drafted anyway."
Yakima starter Daniel Watts took the hard-luck loss Tuesday. He allowed two runs -- one earned -- on six hits over six innings. He walked two batters and fanned a pair in the loss.