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Dickson '12 Continuing Career in the Minor Leagues

July 14, 2014

EASTON, Pa. - Former Lafayette pitcher Ian Dickson '12 is currently pitching for the Potomac Nationals, a Washington Nationals affiliate, in the High A+ Carolina League. The right hander was selected in the 35th round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft in June 2011 by the Chicago Cubs.

Dickson spent the 2012 season and part of the 2013 season in the Cubs minor league system. In June 2013 he was traded to the Washington Nationals. He was assigned to the Hagerstown affiliate in the South Atlantic Carolina A-Level league, where he posted a 2-2 record with a 6.88 ERA.

The Northport, N.Y. native has appeared in nine games this season for the Potomac Nationals. He carries a 1-2 record with a 4.96 ERA. For his three-year career in the minors, Dickson holds an 11-10 mark with a 5.30 ERA in 51 appearances. 

Approximately 1 in every 200 high school baseball players or .05% will be drafted by a major league team into the minor leagues. Only 5.6% of high school players advance on to college to play at some level of college baseball. The numbers show that reaching pro baseball at the minor league level is no easy task. To do so one must obviously have some great talent and athleticism. Out of all players who play minor league baseball about 10% of those players who sign contracts each year will play at least 1 game in the majors.

Chasing the Dreams has been created to follow dreams of players as they climb the ladder from instructional and rookie ball to the upper levels of the minor leagues. We hope to be able to track these players as they make their way up to the pros. Chasing the Dream will look at Lafayette Baseball players in the minors and focus on their stories. Follow their stories and their dreams as we interview them from time to time as they progress through the minors. We hope you enjoy.

Chasing the Dream - Ian Dickson `12
Ian Dickson signed a professional contract with the Chicago Cubs, who selected him in the 35th round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft in June 2011. Dickson declined his remaining eligibility at Lafayette and first reported to the Chicago Cubs rookie-level team in Boise, ID.   June 2013, the Washington Nationals traded for MLB right-handed reliever Henry Rodriguez to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for the right-handed Dickson.    He was assigned to the Hagerstown affiliate as a starting pitcher in the South Atlantic Carolina A-Level League.  Ian is currently playing with the Potomac Nationals in the High A+ Carolina League.

Ian Dickson was the first Leopard to be drafted since Jeff Antolick '93, who was the New York Yankees' 15th-round selection in 1992. The right-handed pitcher advanced to the Class AA level, playing for the Norwich Navigators in the 1995 season. The last Lafayette student-athlete to play in an MLB-affiliated league was Ted Gjeldum '07. Gjeldum signed as a free agent with the Kansas City Royals in 2007 and played one season of advanced rookie ball in the Appalachian League.


Talking about your career in the minor leagues and th
e average day as a minor league pitcher:

The first thing - the days just blur together in the minors because of all the traveling and being on the road.  It can get pretty crazy during the season because we get around 11 off days during the course of the 5 month season. Even in spring training, there is only 1 scheduled day off over 31 days which includes weekends.

On game days, my days have become pretty routine and schedule.  I usually try to wake up and hit the gym around 10:45am.  For a 7pm game, I head to the field around 1:30pm and I am on the field around 2:45pm for 3pm stretching, throwing, and conditioning. Usually head back into the clubhouse around 5pm after batting practice and spend the final 2 hours getting ready for the game.

When I am starting, my routine is different.  As much as I possibly can, I try to let me body get comfortable and rested.  Usually, I try to distract myself during the day by watching a movie or do some stretching and mechanical work on my own.  Around 4pm,I head over to the field looking to arrive around 5pm. Then is the time I use to focus on getting loose mentally and physically - stretching, foam rolling, etc.  I have a Pre-game routine which includes a dynamic warm up, throwing on the field and then getting on the mound leaving me around 10 minutes before game time.

When it is all said and over for the day, usually get home at 11pm, then right back at it the next day.

Talk about your minor-league debut with the Cubs in 2012:

My professional debut was in June 2012 with the Chicago Cubs Short Season team in Boise, ID. It was a Northwest league game and I was the starting pitching of game 4 in a 5 game series.  I remember more about the things that happened during the game not so much the actual pitching part.  I specifically remember giving up a 2 run homer that I thought was foul by 15 feet, which the umpire later apologized for missing because he didn't see it.  We all know the lights in minor league ballparks are the best - yea right! Still makes me laugh.   The following inning, the opposing team's 1st baseman broke his leg running to first base. By the time he was taken off the field 40 minutes later, I pretty much was cooled down and was taken out of the game after 4 innings.  Crazy 1st professional baseball game for sure!

Talk about the differences between the levels of minor league baseball from A-, A, A+ both in terms of competition and atmosphere:

It was definitely eye opening to see how fast the game is versus college and high school.  From a pitching perspective, in high school I felt like I only focused on inning to inning.  In college, I focused maybe batter to batter.  Now in pro ball, the focus is even greater.  I have to focus on every pitch because if you don't the batter can hit the mistake very easily.    

When I was in Short Season - A ball, it was the first time I played an extended schedule.  Short season is all about learning how to play professional baseball because it was 70 games and really the first time playing in front of decent size crowds.

My next season, when I got promoted to Hagerstown in Low A, it was my first 140 game full season. Obviously the biggest difference is the length of the season, but the hitters become more developed as you move up because they are developing an approach at the plate as well.  Pitchers are starting to refine themselves as well as they move up because they are learning how to mix speeds, especially their change up.  This is where the coaches stress to us pitchers the importance of focusing and developing a third pitch.

From talking to older players and guys with big league experience, once players get to AA, AAA and the majors, its all about having an "approach".  Hitters take more pitches because they are looking for a certain pitch that maximizes their strengths.  When they get that pitch, they do not miss.  This is why executing physically is obviously a necessity, but mentally you really need to focus on minimizing mistakes. I was able to play with Gio Gonzalez, Bryce Harper, and Adam LaRoche this year with Potomac I learned so much from just watching their approach.  They maximize their hot streaks and minimize their slumps as best as possible. 

Talk about the difference between your college pitching routine and the professional pitching routine?

I feel at this level, it's a necessity to prepare a daily routine.  We play everyday and your body gets beat up.  So in order to perform at a peak level, your body needs to be prepared and a routine helps for sure. Simple things like eating healthy, getting enough sleep are the little things that can separate players and their success.  The ones that are still here and moving up are the ones who have their routines down.

In college, it is just different because of NCAA time restrictions, different class schedules, and the overall distractions of college life in general.  Looking back on it, maybe doing things different would have helped.  But I wasn't mentally mature enough in college.    

Making it to the major leagues is not an easy task. What is the biggest hurdle you faced to get to where you are today?

My biggest hurdle is being consistent.  Consistency separates the players because the upper management wants to know what they can expect out of a player now and what they can expect in the future.  Just like anything else in life, prior experience is good predictor of future success.  The only way to get the consistency I am looking for is to persevere through the ups and downs. I know that if I stick with it, one day it will just click, and then the really good stuff will come out every time.


What attracted you to attend Lafayette College?

Coming out of high school, I was looking for a school that would challenge me academically and athletically.   I was looking at some schools that would give me one but not the combination. Lafayette was the perfect combination of athletics and academics.

What do you miss most about Lafayette?

I honestly miss the environment of Lafayette, especially the people.  Looking back and being on the road so much, I miss how everything was a 7 minute walk away.  It made it easy to see everyone on a daily basis.

Between your former teammates and coaches, who has made the most impact on your career?

Coach Durrah had a huge impact on me - especially during my sophomore year.  He preached a different philosophy to me from what I was previously exposed to in high school in terms of pitching.  I was "mechanic's guy" coming out of high school and never really thought much about creating a pitch sequence.   He got me to think about setting up batters and using a pitch sequences so I  wasn't just throwing it by a batter, I was setting the batter up.

What collegiate baseball experiences have been invaluable to your successful career?
Everyone that pretty much plays college baseball had a good high school career.  Pitching at the collegiate level was the first time I really got hit around and failed.  So learning how to deal with failure on the mound was invaluable.  Being able to turn the failure into a positive creating energy to work harder the next time really helped me.  I learned to make failure into an opportunity.

What was your most memorable moment playing Lafayette baseball?

The atmosphere, energy, vibe, and intensity of the Patriot League playoffs my freshman and junior years.  Getting so close to the goal of winning the Patriot League and making the NCAA tournament was a lot of fun. Even though we did not win it all, seeing the fruits of our labor pay off was great.

Is there a teammate that you miss playing with from your college days?

Throwing to A.J. Miller is the player that comes to mind.  He was the team leader for sure because he was "a gamer" in all aspects of the word.  He was one player that could carry everyone on his back.  If he saw the team relax for one minute, he would step right in and set the ship straight.  He fired everyone up and brought intensity every day.  Our teams were just a great group of guys that came together in the end to win. 

What advice do you have for Lafayette athletes?

Looking back, my biggest thing is the "idea" of "theme" of getting to the field early.  This obviously applies to the baseball field, but it can be applied to the classroom as well.  Put in the extra time on your own on the field and off the field.  This separates the great ones from everyone on the field (BP, lifting, throwing, running) and in the classroom (study hall, going to the library, getting work done ahead of time).  Find a routine on the baseball field and the classroom.  This extra work adds up over time.