What's More American than Baseball, Apple Pie...and Trains

As I do every morning over coffee, I turn to the sports section of The Washington Post and smack dab in the middle of the page is a giant photo of a scruffy 30-something guy riding Metro. The picture accompanies a profile article about him. He is R.A. Dickey, a quirky knuckleball pitcher for the New York Mets, in town for a series against the Washington Nationals.

Dickey (whose excellent new autobiography "Wherever I Wind Up" I just read) is starting this afternoon's game against the first-place Nats. The article touches on his compelling story, as told in his memoir, about a troubled athlete who overcame a terrible childhood, destructive personal life, and failing career to become one of the best pitchers in the major leagues. Dickey found redemption in his strong faith, forgiving family and the fluttering knuckleball.

I'm a life-long baseball fan and like a lot of little boys I dreamed of playing in the majors. I still revel in my glory days as a high school player. These days I get my thrills coaching my son's little league team. Even though I grew up an Orioles fan and also cheer for the Nats, I consider myself a fan of R.A. Dickey, and not just because of his compelling story and plucky nature.

That brings me back to the photo in the paper that drew my attention. You see, it turns out that Dickey is a huge fan of public transportation, which is something I advocate in my day job when I'm not trolling the diamond. It seems that Dickey just digs trains. I love that the article on him delved into this peculiar sideline passion:

Dickey is a connoisseur of urban subway systems, riding them in any road city where there’s a stop at the ballpark, and at even at home in New York. “New York’s subway system,” he marvels, “is the eighth wonder of the world.”

He mentions the San Francisco Bay Area, Atlanta, Chicago and Washington among his favorite subway systems on the road, although nothing, he said, compares to the old Canadian cities of the Pacific Coast League — Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver, none of which remain in the PCL.

“Calgary, now that was an awesome subway system,” he says. “You’d ride to the stadium, get a table at an outdoor cafe downtown, and ride back to your hotel.”

You gotta love a guy who makes millions of dollars as a professional athlete but prefers to get around on public transportation. Learning that about Dickey was quite a curve ball. Make that a knuckleball.