DENVER -- Success on the mound and in life gave Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey the chance to tell a group of Denver Public Schools children his story of perseverance -- that much failure led to opportunities like the one he had Saturday, when he accepted the Branch Rickey Award for humanitarian service in baseball. He warned them of dream-killers -- those who would offer every reason to give up. He painstakingly detailed how long it took for him to reach his limit as a conventional pitcher and how it wasn't overnight that he found his career-saving knuckleball. He told them to stare their weaknesses in the face and conquer them. But he couldn't help but smile when one of the students reminded him that his days and years of tribulations are in the past. The first question hit at the heart of one of the Mets' gripping offseason questions: Will Dickey sign an extension beyond the 2013 option the club picked up for $5 million? Or will the Mets decide to trade him and give him the opportunity to sign an extension elsewhere -- possibly with an immediate contender -- as Mets general manager Sandy Alderson has acknowledged is a possibility?
Dickey, 38, coming off a 20-6 season that has made him a finalist for the National League Cy Young Award, would later detail the same answer he offered the studious young fan. "Your guess is as good as mine as far as what direction they will go with it," said Dickey, who was honored at a banquet at the Denver Marriott City Center Hotel on Saturday night. "Some of that will crystallize in the next couple of weeks or a month, before the Winter Meetings, hopefully. "I don't want to go, let's put it that way. I like being a Met. That being said, I understand the business that I'm in. I've always understood it's a possibility and there would be no acrimony. It's not an acrimonious situation. Sandy is doing his due diligence because that's what he's paid to do for the New York Mets. I can hold it the way it's supposed to be held. I don't take it personally." Dickey said he is personally involved in the contract talks. His agent, Bo McKinnis, lives in Nashville, Tenn., as does Dickey, and Dickey introduced McKinnis to his future wife, so they're more like friends than in the typical agent-client partnership. Unlike a few years back, Dickey at least can approach the offseason without the angst that used to accompany his winters. "It used to be 'this way or the highway,' so this scenario is much different," Dickey said. "It's all good news in my mind. It becomes small semantics, because it's all good news. But my preference is with the Mets. I love the fan base. My family loves it there. It's a two-hour, direct flight from Nashville. It's beautiful." Dickey received the 21st annual award -- created by the Rotary Club of Denver -- for not just his success on the mound, but for highlighting the beautiful and attempting to stamp out evil through humanitarian service. He was chosen by a national selection committee consisting of 350 members of the sports media, past award winners, baseball executives and Rotary district governors. Each team made a nomination. Dickey helped found Honoring the Father ministries several years back with former Major League pitcher Josh Johnson as a benevolent charity that distributes medical supplies and baseball equipment worldwide to countries such as Mexico, Venezuela and Costa Rica. Last offseason, Dickey climbed Mount Kilimanjaro to help raise more than $100,000 for the Bombay Teen challenge, an organization dedicated to rescuing young women from forced prostitution in India. Dickey's long journey to unexpected stardom, as well as bouts with sexual abuse as a child and depression that had him considering suicide at one point, is revealed in his book, written with Wayne Coffey, "Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball." The Branch Rickey Award benefits Denver Kids, Inc., a preventive counseling and mentoring program for about 1,000 Denver Public Schools students, kindergarten through 12th grade, who are determined to be "at risk." Dickey hopes that the short time he spent with some of the program's students Saturday will show them that they can achieve against long odds, as he did. What happens with the Mets and his contract has nothing to do with that goal. "If the kids just walk away with just one nugget, one point that they can hold on to that will make them different than when they walked in that door ..." Dickey said. "They might not get everything. Of course, they're not going to get everything. But if I send them out the door with something they didn't have when they came in here, I've succeeded."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.