‘Dream Job' for now
Yuba-Sutter Gold Sox outfielder R. C. Dickerson's demeanor suggests he grew up with the ocean in his backyard, his free time spent cruising the coast rather than shoveling snow in Kalamazoo, Mich.
Dickerson, often clad in sunglasses, glides to the ball and around the bases. There's enough of a swagger to indicate he may not be far from greatness.
Gold Sox teammate Kyle Maunus, who also plays with Dickerson at Western Michigan, said he's noticed a change in his friend's approach to the game.
“I think he's having a lot more fun out here. I think he's a lot looser,” said Maunus, a tall, blonde-maned third baseman/pitcher who also might be mistaken for a California native. “I don't think he's pressing as much. I think he's gaining a lot of confidence.”
Dickerson, whose initials stand for Royce Cameron, agrees.
“I'm a lot more relaxed,” he said. “Back home, I was always kicking myself if I didn't do things the way I wanted. I'd get down on myself. If I go out there now and go 0-for-4, I figure even guys in the bigs go 0-for-4.”
Dickerson and Maunus remember one another well from high school. With Maunus on the mound for Grand Ledge High, Dickerson cracked a home run for Kalamazoo. When the two faced each other a year later, Dickerson tried to rob Maunus of a home run, but crashed into the wall and cracked a rib.
Through Sunday, Dickerson is hitting .337 with an on-base percentage of .451, with 16 steals in 18 attempts. He has one error in center field.
Last year's Gold Sox assistant coach, Chris Terry met Western Michigan assistant Mike Diaz at a Stanford Baseball Camp last offseason. Diaz eventually recommended Dickerson and Maunus to Gold Sox manager Brad Peek.
The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Dickerson is hoping to run more next season with the Broncos after only attempting 12 steals as a sophomore. Western Michigan has switched head coaches from Fred Decker to ex-Penn State assistant Randy Ford, so a change in leadership could help.
Peek wants to utilize Dickerson's speed as much as possible. Dickerson almost always has the green light to steal unless he's at second base with zero or two outs.
Dickerson tested his speed on Thursday against the Solano Thunderbirds when he tried to stretch a single into a double in the fourth inning. However, he was thrown out after being gunned out by center fielder Rance Fosdick.
“I was pretty excited about that,” Peek said. “I didn't mind that he was thrown out at second because he forced the defense to make a perfect throw.”
Peek and assistant coach Ryan Tash have been working with Dickerson on expanding his leads at first base. They don't want him to be afraid of getting picked off.
“Basically, I was making it harder on myself when I was stealing bases,” Dickerson said. “My lead was really short and I was just using my speed. Now I've stretched out my lead a little bit and making pitchers throw over a little more.”
Dickerson, shortstop Mark Steinbeck and left fielder Ryan Angel have combined for 36 steals. The three continuously share information about pitchers when they come back to the dugout.
Cutting down on strikeouts has been one of Dickerson's main goals. He has fanned 83 times in 101 games at Western Michigan and was actually off to a poor start with the Gold Sox in that department as well.
“It all has to do with my back elbow,” he said. “I used to keep my elbow really high. When it was high, my swing was really long. Now that my elbow is down, I'm a lot shorter to the ball and making a lot better contact.”
Dickerson has two versions of his “Dream Job.” The first is to play professional baseball either after his junior or senior years. He was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the 27th round out of high school but opted for Western Michigan.
The second is to be an anchor on ESPN. Dickerson said he watched the reality show “Dream Job” religiously and would consider trying out in the future. “Dream Job” pitted amateurs broadcasters against one another with the winner earning a spot with the all-sports network.
Peek describes Dickerson as a smart and intelligent kid who is fun to be around. He just needs to put it all together.
“He's a good athlete and he keeps improving,” Peek said. “I talk to him quite a bit about how to make himself more marketable.”
Appeal-Democrat assistant sports editor Matt O'Donnell can be reached at 749-4796. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.