“I remember it like yesterday,” Corey Dickerson said of his 2 for 4, two-double debut in the majors back on June 22, 2013 in Nationals Park.
Dickerson, 33, and a 2010 8th Round pick by Colorado’s Rockies, debuted in Washington, D.C.’s ballpark in front of family and friends who’d traveled to the nation’s capital to share the moment with the outfielder.
“It was amazing,” he recalled.
“I remember getting called up. I had my brother, my wife, his wife, with me in Colorado Springs, and we came up, and my family having the opportunity to be there, my wife’s family, and just the welcome I got from all the guys. I still remember that first at-bat, and also just walking out on the field for the first time. It was amazing. I felt like, ‘This is what the big leagues is all about,’ and I’ll always remember the Nats’ stadium because of that.”
The stadium, in which Dickerson has put up a .359/.391/.688 line, three doubles, and six home runs in 19 games and 69 career plate appearances, will be his new home in 2023, after the 10-year veteran signed a one-year free agent deal with the Nationals this week.
How did he end up signing on in D.C.?
“Just like almost any free agency or any free agent deal, it seems to come quick whenever the communication gets to rolling and — you know, just opportunity,” he said of his decision to join the rebooting ballclub at this point in his career. “Opportunity to help the team being a lefty bat, being around a while, and pretty young team, but it’s pretty cool that I made my debut here, so it has some pretty cool feeling to it.”
The Nationals will be his eighth major league team, but he said there are some benefits to moving around and getting new opportunities in different cities and organizations.
“A lot of times if you stay with a team too long it can become monotonous and people’s routines and things like that, being in one place too long,” he said.
“But I take fulfillment in getting to know people right away, trying to learn the sense of humor of every single guy, how you can joke with them, how are they approachable, and just try to be a good teammate. Let them know that I’m there to help in any way. I’m a competitor, and I love to compete and turn it on when I have to, but when we’re not between the lines I’m always there, and I think just putting out that vibe and letting guys know that I’m approachable is huge.”
His role with the club is TBD at this point (he’s going to play a lot of left, and he’ll likely sit against left-handed pitchers), but the veteran outfielder said knowing how to stay ready (and trying to stay healthy) are the keys to sticking around in the big leagues.
Playing the field, he said, as opposed to DHing, does help keep him locked in, and provides an opportunity to contribute on both ends even if he’s in a rough stretch at the plate.
“Yeah, for sure,” he said. “Staying locked in. Having the opportunity — if you’re not feeling good at the dish that day, to try to take a hit away from the next guy. That’s kind of how I play. If I’m not getting a hit, I’m not going to let them get a hit. That type of mentality. It’s fun for me. It’s my preparation through the day. I get to help the team. I quit worrying so much about the production aspect because I know even if I don’t hit or I’m not seeing the ball that well, I have an opportunity to really help in the field. And it helps me take care of my body. I feel like I stay in shape better, but you just have to find ways to stay in shape if you’re not in that role, so we’ll see how it plays out.”
One of the things Dickerson said he’ll be able to help his youngest teammates to do is figure out how to stay on the field and deal with the nagging issues which are inherent in trying to navigate through a big league season.
“I feel like I learned a lot about my body every single year,” he said of his ten big league seasons, “and that helps with my teammates, being able to help young guys learn to play to play the game a long time, to prepare for 162 games, the mental toll, it’s more mental than it is physical, and once your body goes, it’s hard to keep your mental [game] intact, so I think I’ll be able to help young guys with that. But I’ve learned a lot.
“Learned maybe I need to hit in the cage more some days, or it’s okay to mix up your routine and things like that to make sure you feel closer to 100%. Everybody thinks when you turn on the TV everybody is 100%, but we’re not, we’re all competitors. It’s trying to get yourself in the best physical shape where mentally you can go out there and just compete.”
He’s still learning himself, of course, and adjusting to playing less as his career is in the latter stages and he finds ways to contribute in whatever role he’s asked to play at this point.
“This past year I strained my calf,” he explained, “and I was going from not really playing too much to I started to play a little bit more, we had a day game, and I tweaked my calf, and it could have been from — when you don’t play as much, you tend not to condition the same. Or you practice the same as if you’re playing every day, but it’s not the same. You have to put in a little extra work, a few more sprints, a few more cardiovascular things to make sure your body is in shape when you’re not playing every day or if you’re just DHing. You got to be able to make sure whenever your name is called and you need to play every day, you’re ready. And I think that’s only something you can learn from, it’s a mentality you’ve got to have, and having people around you holding you accountable to that is huge.”