One of the great truths about baseball is that, regardless of how many games you watch, on any night there is a chance you will see something you have never seen before on the diamond.
That was the case for most of the 3,011 fans at McCormick Field on June 3. On a partly cloudy Friday evening, Asheville left fielder Corey Dickerson had no difficulty putting a charge into the baseball and some energy in the stands. The left-handed hitter crushed three home runs and a pair of sacrifice flies in five trips to the plate to drive in 10 runs in the Tourists' 13-5 victory over the Augusta GreenJackets.
"It was just a blessed night, and I was also really lucky," Dickerson said. "I really didn't notice I had a sac fly early in the game. I then hit the two home runs, and the guys in the dugout starting joking with me, saying they bet I couldn't hit a third. I told myself it was a lucky night, and then it just happened. I was expecting the pitcher to pitch away from me in my last at-bat. At the same time, I was ready for that first-pitch fastball. He threw it [on a 2-0 count], and I hit it."
Dickerson made history by tying the South Atlantic League record for most RBIs in a game, equaling the mark established by Jim Barbe of Asheville in 1978.
"I read about it on MiLB.com, but I really try not to pay much attention to that kind of stuff," Dickerson said of putting his name in the record book. "I tell myself it might happen again if I just keep working hard. But I also realize it was probably a once-in-a-lifetime thing. I just feel blessed to be a part of it, and hopefully I'll have a few more good days down the road."
Though noted for that night, Dickerson has had numerous other impressive outings in 2011. Through his first 252 at-bats, he ranks second in the SAL with a .607 slugging percentage and is tied for first with Augusta third baseman Adam Duvall with 20 home runs. The 22-year-old outfielder also owns a .282 batting average with 18 doubles, two triples and 53 RBIs.
"I feel pretty good, even though I thought I started off pretty slow," Dickerson said. "I finally got into a rhythm after seeing a lot of pitches. We're able to hit the ball on this team, and I feel like we have a chance to do very well in the second half."
Dickerson entered the professional ranks in 2010 when the Colorado Rockies drafted him in the eighth round out of Meridian (Miss.) Community College. Shortly after signing, he reported to Casper in the Pioneer League and proceeded to hit .348 as the Ghosts' starting left fielder. He paced the club with 22 doubles, nine triples, 13 home runs, 61 RBIs and a .634 slugging percentage. Dickerson also topped the league in RBIs, extra-base hits and total bases (175) and was named an All-Star.
Between his stints in Casper and Asheville, Dickerson says playing professional baseball has been about what he expected, although he admits he underestimated one important part of the game in terms of the competition.
"The only thing I missed was the pitching is a little better than I thought it would be," Dickerson said. "The key is to make adjustments every at-bat. If you don't make adjustments, the pitchers are going to figure you out. Every year you play is an adjustment, and you have to learn from every at-bat. Everyone has a weakness with a particular pitch. All you can do is work as hard as possible in order to be as good as you can be."
A three-sport standout while growing up in Mississippi, Dickerson underwent surgery on his labrum prior to his senior year of high school. The ailing shoulder limited the attention he garnered from scouts and recruiters from four-year schools. The Mets, however, expressed strong interest in his services, while Southern Mississippi and Mississippi State made offers with limited financial assistance. Feeling he would improve as his shoulder got stronger, Dickerson decided to attend Meridian in order to keep his options open.
"I decided going to junior college was the best route for me," Dickerson said. "I thought I deserved a better scholarship than what I had been offered. I also knew there was a chance I could be drafted. The Mets talked to me quite a bit when I was in high school, so I didn't want to be tied down to a four-year school in the event other opportunities came about after my shoulder completely healed."
The Rockies drafted him the first time after his freshman year at Meridian before calling his name again following his sophomore season. The second time proved to be the charm for both the player and organization. Colorado officials are pleased with the progress Dickerson is making, and he believes he is on the right track to achieve the dreams he has had since his days in Little League.
"I was hoping I'd start off a lot quicker, but I still believe everything is going pretty good," Dickerson said. "I'm enjoying what I'm doing and I enjoy being in this organization and being on this team. I've only played outfield for three years so I'm mostly working on my skills out there. I'm just trying to get everything down, including my throwing. But I need to work on all parts of my game. I just try to get better in some little aspect of the game every day. If I do that, I should keep progressing in the direction I want to go."
Duvall en fuego: Speaking of Adam Duvall, the Augusta third baseman has been in another stratosphere at the plate. He entered Wednesday's action on a 10-game hitting streak, during which he is 22-for-38 with seven multi-hit outings, three homers, 15 RBIs and 13 runs scored. In his last five games, Duvall is 10-for-17, good for a .588 batting average. His performance has helped spearhead Augusta's current 10-game winning streak that has vaulted the GreenJackets into first place in the Southern Division.
Hickory hot ... again: After winning the Northern Division first half with a torrid finish, Hickory has regained its place atop the standings with another strong week. Winners of nine of their last 11 outings, the Crawdads won six of seven on a road trip that concluded Monday and included a three-game sweep at Delmarva. RHP Roman Mendez improved to 8-1 on the season with six shutout innings against the Shorebirds on July 18. In his last two starts, Mendez has allowed two earned runs and struck out 16 batters over 12 innings.
Big league visitors: MLB rehab assignments continue to populate South Atlantic League contests. Philadelphia's Brad Lidge tossed a scoreless inning for Lakewood against Greenville on July 20 after taking the mound twice for the BlueClaws between July 13-18. Atlanta 3B Chipper Jones is slated to play at Rome's State Mutual Stadium on July 22-23.