Corey Dickerson pulled off one of the most remarkable feats in baseball this season.
The Tampa Bay Rays‘ designated hitter was voted by the fans to the American League starting lineup for the All-Star Game in Miami earlier this month. That achievement did not come easily.
The Rays are last in the major leagues in attendance, drawing an average of 15,955 fans a game. Furthermore, Tampa Bay has yet to appear on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball this season or any of FOX’s Saturday night regional telecasts.
Dickerson may get more exposure than, say, someone playing in the Pecos League… but not much.
Yet the fans have found out that Dickerson is having an outstanding season for a team that was 3 ½ games behind in the AL East race and 2 ½ games out of the second AL wild card entering their game Saturday afternoon against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium.
Dickerson, 28, was hitting .301/.344/.529 with 19 home runs in 98 games.
Dickerson admits he is “not a politician” and laments that few members of the national media seem to be taking the Rays seriously. Thus, he was pleasantly surprised that so many fans noticed him.
“For me and my family, to win the fan vote was even more special, even though it would have been special to just make the team in general,” Dickerson said. “Winning the fan vote showed how much the fans care, and how much it is a fan’s game. It feels like that hard work is appreciated, and I’m very thankful.
“It’s one of the coolest moments I’ve had during my career. It was a weird feeling but you know you’re on that level, that you put up the numbers and you put up the work. Still, to have so many people acknowledge it by voting for you is surreal.”
Perhaps Dickerson drew notice because “less is more.” He lost 25 pounds over the winter and now weighs 200.
Dickerson, like so many others, found losing weight challenging — he jokes about being “addicted to sweets.” However, he cut back on desserts and other carbohydrates, and can still feel the difference two-thirds of the way into the season.
“I just feel better all-round,” Dickerson said. “My swing is quicker. I have better flexibility. My range of motion is better. I’m not a speedster but I feel like I’m moving better on the bases. I felt sluggish at the end of last season and thought it was time to do something about it.”
Dickerson has been anything but sluggish in 2017 while becoming the hitter the Rays thought they were acquiring from the Colorado Rockies during the 2015-16 offseason, in a trade for right-hander German Marquez and left-handed reliever Jake McGee.
While he didn’t have a bad season a year ago, hitting .245/.293/.469 with 24 home runs in 148 games, Dickerson knew he could do better.
He has responded with an All-Star season while splitting time between DH and left field for the Rays. Dickerson usually plays left against right-handed starting pitchers and is the DH versus left-handers.
Dickerson also became just the fourth player in the Rays’ 19-year history to be voted into the All-Star Game starting lineup, joining Jose Canseco, Evan Longoria and Carl Crawford.
“It’s good to see a deserving player get recognition, and that’s why everyone in our clubhouse was so thrilled when Corey got voted in,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “It’s nice people all around the country appreciate what Corey is doing this season. He’s having a great year.”