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SAS CITY -- R.A. Dickey strolled through Kauffman Stadium's visiting bullpen gate at 10:06 p.m. ET on Tuesday, keenly aware of the spectacle surrounding him -- the stage and the spotlight, the past and the present, "the noises and the smells." More than 40,000 baseball fans of mixed allegiances were in attendance, many of them cheering specifically for him.
"I felt like I was on stage at a Broadway musical," Dickey said of his first career All-Star Game experience at age 37. "It was wild."
The details of his mound performance seemed almost secondary in an 8-0 victory for the National League, eventful though they were. After giving up a leadoff hit and a stolen base to Angels outfielder Mike Trout, Dickey struck out Mark Trumbo, hit Paul Konerko with a pitch and induced Miguel Cabrera to hit into an inning-ending double play. Then he walked off the mound just as he had come, soaking in the details around him.
"Just being here in general has been an incredible apex to an incredible narrative," Dickey said of a career reborn two years ago, at age 35. "I don't really know how to quantify it emotionally. I'm just trying to take it in and soak it in and celebrate it with people that I'll always care about."
Much of the lead-in to Tuesday's game centered around Dickey and the Mets, though not necessarily for reasons of his journey. Despite the fact that Dickey posted the best overall numbers of any starting pitcher in the NL, All-Star manager Tony La Russa instead selected Giants right-hander Matt Cain to start the game. Visibly disappointed, Dickey accepted his assignment as a reliever.
It was not the only slight for the Mets, who also saw David Wright lose to San Francisco's Pablo Sandoval in fan voting for the start at third base, despite superior statistics. La Russa even passed on a chance to make Wright his starting designated hitter, which would have somewhat made up for the third-base snub.
But none of that sullied the experience for either Met. Wright, who finished 0-for-2, said his sixth All-Star Game meant perhaps even more after he missed out on the festivities last season. And Dickey was able to share the experience with his wife, mother and four children, who joined him during Tuesday's All-Star parade through the streets of Kansas City.
"I didn't even have that in my mind," Dickey said of not starting the game. "I glanced up at my family just before I took the mound. It's a nice night. It's an honor, not just for me, but for a lot of people who have loved me well and poured into me in a way that's really special."
The other subplot of Tuesday's appearance was the matter of who might catch Dickey. But after dropping three of the knuckleballer's eight warmup pitches, Phillies backstop Carlos Ruiz grew comfortable behind the plate, even pressuring Dickey to throw a fastball at one point.
"It was fun," Ruiz said. "In the bullpen, I was a little nervous. After he threw me a couple balls, I started to feel more relaxed."
Success followed. And then, just like that, Dickey's All-Star experience was over.
"I think it meant a lot for R.A. to come in," Wright said. "For him to come out there and have that inning and just give up that one hit basically, it was pretty cool for all of us."
Mets fans have come to adore Wright, a lifetime Met who, at age 29, already ranks among the franchise's most accomplished players. And they have come to appreciate skipper Terry Collins, who said before the game that he is having more fun than ever in his third stop as a manager. La Russa named Collins to his All-Star coaching staff in part because of what he has been able to accomplish with the Mets.
But no one in Flushing has drawn more interest, garnered more attention or piqued more curiosity than Dickey, the former first-round Draft pick who began throwing his knuckleball full-time in 2005 in a last-ditch attempt to save a foundering career. He is an author, actor and mountain climber who has faced gallons of adversity and shared his story with millions.
Now, he is an All-Star Game veteran as well.
"You try to be an All-Star every year," Dickey said. "It's not like you try any less hard one year from the other. But it sure does kind of whet your palate because it's a neat experience."