los angeles: so what do we do with this kid corey dickerson?
“incredible hitter,” Dodgers catcher a.j. ellis says. “there is nowhere to throw it.”
you know, dickerson…left fielder…colorado rockies?
“I love that guy,” says a National League scout. “His hand-eye coordination is amazing and he’s hitting lefties this year.”
You know, the hitting fanatic who cleans his bats with rubbing alcohol every day, then re-tapes the handles?
“pretty obsessive compulsive, huh?” says rockies hitting coach blake doyle, smiling.
meet mckenzie corey dickerson, who would have been at the center of the NL batting race last season with only 24 more plate appearances (with 478, missing the 502 needed to qualify). he is 25 (26 on May 22) and talks about a catch:
the off-season after his freshman year, he’d stop by wal-mart or sam’s club, buy huge cans of unpopped popcorn kernels, and then hang out with his girlfriend in their backyard in mississippi and ask for to throw them while he was swinging. a regular wooden bat.
“I really couldn’t cast them very well,” Dickerson says. “she would throw them behind me.
“so they fired her. plus, i think she was in the line of fire, with me hitting her back.”
that girl, beth anne, is now corey’s wife.
I mean, really. how can you resist this guy?
growing up in mcomb, mississippi, i used to beat berries with sticks. and ping-pong balls with broomsticks. her brother craig, three years older, would spin those ping pong balls like a ping pong ball, and he would try to hit one of them with a broomstick.
corey could. And, speaking of whiffle ball, yes. you also knew that would come.
“My brother and I used to make our own homemade pitching mound and have whiffle ball tournaments,” Dickerson says. “We would get clay from the forest and package it up, build it up, and then use a piece of plywood for the pitching rubber.”
Who needs travel balls and expensive personal hitting trainers with a build like that?
His father, Tim, would shake his head, laugh, and tell Corey, “I can’t believe you’re doing that” as Corey would pick berries from the fence surrounding the family home, throw them in the air, and hit them with a switch. imagine, a child developing his skills with a good dose of creativity and determination.
when he was eight years old, corey was playing in the local little league with nine and ten year olds. At 10, she was playing with 11- and 12-year-olds.
“A couple of times, I deserved to be on the all-star team, but I couldn’t because I was too young,” he says.
just like last year, when he would have finished fourth in the NL batting race, had he had a few more plate appearances.
One of these days, this guy is going to get his just reward.
“When they called him up [in 2013], you could pitch to him,” Ellis says of the Dodgers. “Next thing you know, he’s hitting opposite-field home runs at Dodger Stadium at night [when the fresh air makes it harder].”
“It’s amazing with his timing and his rhythm how he can hit balls out of the zone,” Doyle says. “That hand-eye coordination. It’s the same thing that Hunter Pence does.”
indians manager terry francona says he has never seen anyone hit harder than dickerson. And yet, Doyle says, one of Dickerson’s greatest attributes is his two-strike approach, the way he narrows his vision to a particular part of the plate and gets “a little more direct at the ball” with his swing. .
“I call it controlled aggression,” Doyle continues. “That makes it a very, very difficult exit.”
The Rockies’ eighth-round pick in the 2010 draft, Dickerson, who hit .312/.364/.567 with a team-leading 24 home runs and a team-leading 76 RBIs last summer, was disappointed in that moment. The Phillies, Mets, Cubs and even the Rockies had indicated that he could go in the second or third round.
but i was playing at a small school, meridian community college in meridian, mississippi, in a secluded area; Despite the fact that he had committed to playing in the state of Mississippi, he believes that a lack of enthusiasm in that part of the country conspired to bring him down.
Of course, it wasn’t like he’d spent his entire life planning a career as a baseball player. In high school, he was a pitcher throwing 93 mph but later suffered a torn labrum and worn-out rotator cuff. he played his entire junior year of high school with the injury, throwing with his side arm due to pain.
had surgery that summer, but stopped his pitching program after just two months of rehab because, well, football practice was starting. in those high school days, he would just put his head down and jump into the next sport, which was football and then basketball after baseball.
Now, I wish I was done with launch rehab. Since he didn’t, he ended up moving from the infield (where he played when he wasn’t throwing) to the outfield because the shots were less frequent and easier.
but, ah, hit. even with a sore shoulder, she could always do that. And after making his major league debut in 2013 with a .263 batting average, five home runs and 17 RBIs in 69 games, he told root sports reporter jenny cavnar of the rockies during a spring interview last year that his goal was to win a batting title.
it sure sounded awfully sweet and idealistic… until the 2014 season began to unfold, carlos gonzalez suffered an injury and an opportunity opened up for dickerson. then bam! He was huddled with his teammate Justin Morneau, who would win the batting title at .319, down the stretch, studying pitchers.
At the end of the season, his .931 operations ranked seventh in the majors among those with a minimum of 450 plate appearances. Only three outfielders ranked ahead of him: the Pirates’ Andrew McCutchen (.952), the Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton (.950) and Los Angeles’ Mike Trout (.939). McCutchen and Trout both have MVP awards on their resumes, and Stanton finished second last year in the NL MVP voting.
Yes, like many before him, Coors Field helped Dickerson, where he hit .363/.415/.684. on the road, he hit .252/.305/.431.
This year, in just three home games, his op is .962, while in nine road games through Sunday he was a healthy .897.
as ellis points out, dickerson is headed in the right direction: he’s closing even more holes in his swing.
And as the scout points out, he’s hitting lefties this year: .273/.333/.364 (in an admittedly small sample size) after last year’s .253/.306/.418.
“One of the great things about Dickey is that he studies pitchers and prepares them, but he doesn’t overanalyze their swing, whether it’s going well or not,” Doyle says. “He follows the old school feel.
“and he’s such a good hitter that he doesn’t care who throws, lefty, righty or switch. He’s just going to hit the ball.”
dickerson, who was hitting .298/.327/.532 with two home runs and 10 RBIs (tied for fifth in the NL) through Sunday, probably spends as much time with his bats as he does in front of the monitors watching video.
cleans them every day.
“I clean them with rubbing alcohol to remove the marks,” he says. “And I also re-record them every day.
“i’m obsessed with my bats. i want them to be perfect. i want to see where the foul balls hit on the bat, so i clean them. and reattach them because pine tar builds up too thick and sticky on the handle”.
Like jazz artists and musicians, he is guided by sensations. And, yeah, don’t ask about his batting gloves either: He figures that out of 12, he finds only three or four usable for games. the rest are cut too thick, which, again, interferes with his feel with the bat.
“My teammates always see me with a bat,” he says. “I’m sure they’re saying, ‘there goes weird corey with a bat.'” And the coaches get mad at me for using all the tape.”
but a boy has to do what a boy has to do, right?
damn, he set his sights on winning a batting title one day. but not somehow arrogant. not even close.
“I love hitting,” Dickerson says. “I want to be good at it. I want to be successful at it.
“You have to have goals that you have to work your hardest to achieve. That’s what motivates me.”
does anyone have extra tape?
scott miller covers major league baseball as a national columnist for the bleacher report.
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