Dickey signs autographs for fans in Times Square
Knuckleballer spends time with Mets faithful at M&M's World
NEW YORK -- R.A. Dickey, the most approachable of modern-day sporting stars, visited one of the busiest intersections on the planet Tuesday to spread some holiday cheer.
Dickey, the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner, took a couple hours out of his day to sign autographs at the M&M's World outlet in Times Square on Tuesday afternoon, and he did so despite knowing that his contract status has quickly become a matter of public concern.
Mets fans came from far and wide Tuesday to have a chance to meet their hero. And Dickey, who had also been to the team's holiday party in the morning, was more than happy to interact with them.
"It's good," said Dickey of his intimate connection with the fans. "I love Christmas, and being part of the opening of this Holiday Village is pretty cool. I have four kids, so it's a natural fit for me."
The line at M&M's World started forming before noon, and Dickey wore a holiday hat and sat on a throne fit for Santa Claus as part of his one-man receiving line. Dickey posed for pictures and signed autographs, and he said beforehand that he treasures the connection he has with fans.
But this day -- and this trip to New York -- happened at a chaotic time for Dickey. The right-hander is uncertain whether the Mets will sign him to a contract extension or trade him to another team, and he said Tuesday that the situation has leaked out of his own hands and into the public sphere.
"I've had a few tweets about it," he said. "I wish I had more control of the situation. A lot of times, it's just so far outside your control that you've just got to kind of let things play out. That's where we are."
Dickey, a first-round pick by the Rangers in the 1996 First-Year Player Draft, took a circuitous route to stardom. The veteran bounced around the league until 2010, when he landed in New York and began using a knuckleball to devastating effect. Over the last three seasons, he is 39-28 with a 2.95 ERA.
But it's his journey -- and his success despite adversity -- that has endeared him to the baseball world. Shortly after they drafted him, the Rangers found that Dickey was born without a crucial ligament in his pitching elbow. But he didn't let physiology stop him from realizing his potential.
Now, Dickey is 38 years old and finds himself on top of the heap. Around 200 fans came out to M&M's World to see him on Tuesday, and many took the time to lobby him to stay in New York for the rest of his career.
One of those Mets fans -- David Yansick of Garden City, Long Island -- told his friend Kristin Behr to meet him at his house at 9:30 a.m. He didn't tell her why or where they were going, but they made their trip to Times Square without incident and were among the first to meet with Dickey.
"It was such a pleasure," said Yansick of their brief encounter. "He's such a gentleman and he's so inspirational to his fans. He's such a nice guy, and I can't even describe what it was like meeting him, because he's one of the few people in sports that people can legitimately look up to and emulate."
"He's the real deal," added Behr of Dickey. "David completely surprised me. We literally made the train by a minute and David said, 'We're going to the M&M's store.' I said, 'Why are we going there?' I had no idea R.A. was going to be here, and I bugged out. I was totally surprised."
One lucky shopper -- Jennifer Maloney of Scotch Plains, N.J. -- wound up meeting Dickey by pure coincidence. Maloney was in the store with her two sons and took advantage of the moment.
"We just came in from New Jersey," said Maloney of her family's twist of fate. "We happened to be in the store today and saw the signs. We walked and came back and got his autographs."
Dickey had gone with teammate Ike Davis and former Met John Franco to another holiday outing earlier in the day, and he said that everywhere he goes, the same questions follow him. Everyone wants resolution on where he'll be next season, and Dickey is no different in that regard.
"Being an older guy, I know it's just part of the gig," he said. "You try to take as much emotion as you can out of it, but at the same time, you do want some closure sooner or later. So you hope for that closure. But it's OK. I'm 60-40 [on whether] we'll get some closure before the new year. A lot of things can happen between now and Christmas even. This will be a big couple weeks, I think."
Dickey was scheduled to go back home to Nashville, Tenn., later on Tuesday. And he said that while big things may be about to break in his career, he's enjoying the holiday season in much the same fashion as the rest of the country: by spending as much time as he can with his family.
"Just to love on my kids," said Dickey. "I don't get to be around them during the year, and so this is a real nice time for my family. ... They're hanging out. They've got school, and school gets out soon, so hopefully we'll get a big snow and we can sled and play in the snow."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.