New York Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey plans to scale Mount Kilimanjaro
When he goes out for his daily run, New York Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey straps on a black mask covering his eyes, nose and mouth.
The guise has two distinct effects. The first is to limit his oxygen intake, simulating the conditions at a high altitude. The second is to make him the scourge of dogs in his Nashville neighborhood.
"They get freaked out," Dickey said. "They either want to bite my neck off or they run as fast as they can in the other direction."
The mask, a gift from teammate D.J. Carrasco, is helping Dickey to prepare for the trek of a lifetime. In January, he will travel to Tanzania and attempt to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest free-standing mountain on Earth. To reach the summit, he will have to ascend to 19,336 feet above sea level, traversing a path that begins in 85-degree heat and ends with the ground covered in snow.
The trip will represent the intersection of a lifelong ambition and a moral conviction. Dickey planned it in large part to raise money and awareness for a charity, Bombay Teen Challenge, which helps victims of sex trafficking in India.
But on a team perpetually beset by injuries, Dickey's planned expedition has also caused some consternation in the front office. A few months ago, the Mets sent a letter to Dickey's agent warning him that they reserve the right to void the remaining year on his contract if he is injured on the mountain. They cannot stop him from going, but they clearly would prefer he did not.
"If we thought it was a good idea, we wouldn't have sent the letter," Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said. "Beyond that, have we tried to dissuade him from going? It seems to me that the letter is enough of an effort to dissuade him, and he intends to go on nonetheless."
Dickey, a 37-year-old knuckleballer, has more than $4.5 million in guaranteed money left on the two-year, $7.8 million deal he signed in January. For a man who toiled for 14 years without a guaranteed contract, it is no small thing to risk. But Dickey downplayed the potential dangers of the trip.
"I don't think there's really any lethal risk to doing it," Dickey said. "It's not like it's Everest."