BRADENTON, Fla. — Chris Dickerson was just a block from Oriole Park at Camden Yards May 31, 2013, less than an hour removed from an electric walk-off homer, as he waited out a traffic light on his bicycle.
Hundreds of Orioles fans surrounded him, but not a soul took notice.
Turns out trying to save the planet, also can score a guy some peace and quiet.
“I’m sitting on the corner on my bike with maybe 500 people around me and nobody recognized me,” said Dickerson, whose three-run shot off Detroit’s Jose Valverde that night gave the Orioles a 7-5 win. “It was awesome.”
This spring, Dickerson is trying to land a roster spot with the Pirates after signing a minor league deal with an invite to spring training. He also is an active environmentalist, a beach-loving kid from California, and the co-founder of the non-profit, Players for the Planet.
“Growing up in California it’s just part of our culture. Being at the beach you see the irresponsibility that’s left behind with bottles, cans and plastic,” Dickerson said. “When I was younger the smog level would get so bad kids couldn’t show up if they had asthma. There’s so many things that so often go unnoticed.”
He rode his bike to Camden Yards every day he was with Baltimore, drove a hybrid Chevy Tahoe when he played with Cincinnati in 2008-09.
Dickerson said the true impetus to actually do something happened in 2007 when he got sick with the flu and stayed home for several days.
He caught up on DVDs, and one was Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth.”
“It basically kind of got me thinking,” Dickerson said. “Then a series of coincidental events pushed me to start my own initiative.”
While playing for Class AAA Louisville in 2008, he challenged his teammates to not use plastic water bottles in the clubhouse all summer. He sent away for 50 aluminum bottles to help, and just like that his movement had started.
“People want to make a change but don’t quite know how. I realize I have the perfect platform to do so being a professional athlete and being an environmentalist.”
Former player Jack Cassell is the nonprofit’s other co-founder and the two have 40 athletes signed on and work in cities around the country.
Dickerson is 4 for 10 this spring with three walks, 1 double, 3 RBIs and 2 stolen bases. This 6-foot-4, 230 pound left-hander’s best chance to break with the club is to earn one of the club’s final bench spots, or edge out a number of candidates in the running for right field.
“When you’re in this situation you can’t hold anything back,” Dickerson said. “If you run, run. You’ve got power show that. Show versatility. Show you can play defense. Hustle and grit. That’s what they want, that’s what I am. It’s a matter of showing it.”
Rainout forces changes
The game Thursday against Toronto was rained out, pushing back Gerrit Cole’s start and Jason Grilli’s first appearance of the spring.
Both will pitch today against the Minnesota Twins. Cole will start the split-squad “B” game and Grilli will appear in the “A” game in relief of starter Wandy Rodriguez.
“A” game pitchers for today: Rodriguez, Grilli, Jeanmar Gomez, Jameson Taillon and Jared Hughes.
“B” game: Cole, Justin Wilson, Bryan Morris, Stolmy Pimentel, Andy Oliver and Casey Sadler.
Manager Clint Hurdle said Grilli is in a good place and he will get the same amount of innings that he got a year ago in the spring, but just constructed differently this year.
“A closer never gets closing work in spring training unless he pitches the first or second inning and that doesn’t happen very often,” Hurdle said. “So we thought about it. How can we best suit preparing him for next season based on the workload of last year, the injury, then the ability to finish the season physically fit and now just monitor it moving forward? He’s in a good place. I think he’s going to get pretty much the same amount of innings as he got last spring. We’ve just kind of set it up differently.”
Jenn Menendez: email@example.com and Twitter: @JennMenendez.