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Basel 02-11-2012 09:02 PM

R.A. Dickey's African adventure

As most pitchers would tell you, climbing atop a big league mound is difficult enough. Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey, however, found an even more challenging climb this winter: Mount Kilimanjaro.

"The idea originally appealed to me when I read 'The Snows of Kilimanjaro' when I was in seventh grade. Which is bizarre because the short story is not about the mountain at all," said Dickey, who finished the climb last month. "But there is a line about finding the body of a leopard on the mountain's slope and how it was a mystery what it was doing there. And that stuck with me. I started to consider that mountain as a mystical place.

"As I grew older and older, the goal was to climb it. The opportune moment finally presented itself this year and I said, 'If I'm ever going to do it, I'll have to do it now."

That opportunity was a chance to climb the mountain with former teammate Kevin Slowey and Mets bullpen catcher Dave Racaniello in January while raising money for Bombay Teen Challenge, a charity that helps women who had been forced into prostitution in Mumbai.

Bombay Teen Challenge provides an avenue of escape for these women, training them to find work elsewhere and helping them to better, healthier lives. Because many of the women suffer from HIV and AIDS, Dickey says that sometimes, the only thing the charity can do is provide them with a haven for a dignified death. "It's pretty sobering," Dickey said. " I've got two daughters myself, and the thought of them being exposed to those atrocities is horrifying."

So Dickey committed himself to the climb, even when the Mets sent him a letter discouraging him from going and informing him that he was putting his $4.5 million contract at risk. Dickey has dealt with losing a contract before -- as a 1996 first-round draft pick, he lost an $800,000 signing bonus when the Rangers discovered he was missing the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching arm -- and he didn't worry much about this one. He understood the Mets were simply covering their financial bases, the same as any other club would. In fact, he says team CEO Jeff Wilpon congratulated him after the climb and made a large donation to Bombay Teen Challenge. (Dickey says they raised more than $100,000 overall.)
R.A. Dickey's African adventure - ESPN

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