Double-Duty Dickey Is Catalyst For Gators

Three Saturdays ago, Gavin Dickey ran for chunks of big yardage in Florida's football scrimmage in "The Swamp," earning praise from head coach Urban Meyer. Later that day, he led off the third inning with a double to right center and scored Florida's first run against then sixth-ranked South Carolina earning the praise of Coach Pat McMahon. In both roles, Dickey served as the catalyst. Such has been the life of Gavin Dickey this spring: baseball player, football player, catalyst.

"We needed a spark that day and it just so happened that I was the guy to start it off," he said. "Man, it was a long day!

"I'd been up since seven," he said, smiling. "I think the rain delay was good. It gave me a few extra hours to rest, get a little energy back, and a little food. I think it helped a lot. Rest and food [laughing] You have to prepare for it mentally, because you know it's going to be a long day."

It has been a long time since the Lincoln High School graduate has been labeled a catalyst. In fact, you'd have to go back to his high school days in Tallahassee. But, like the old adage about hits, it's coming in bunches.

The left fielder is currently hitting .387, which is second on the team. Dickey has the second best on base percentage (.466), which is tremendous for a guy who has drawn only seven walks. Over on the football field, Dickey's athleticism and running ability helped Urban Meyer and the Gators make a few big plays this spring. .

None of the Florida quarterbacks runs the option better than Dickey. He handles the ball very well, pitches it on time, and has the ability to turn it up field and avoid would-be tacklers. Personally, I do think Dickey will see the field for the Florida football team this season. His running ability is far too great to leave alone on the sidelines, and you can bet that isn't lost on Meyer.

Whispers abound about what Dickey should do. Some see him realizing his baseball potential. Others see him playing them both out because of his love for the games and the enhancement of his competitive spirit. There are still others who look at the things he must develop in baseball and determine that he really has no future in the game.

Dickey has four doubles and a .520 slugging percentage. His .475 on base percentage is second on the team. He has outstanding speed, which has helped him stretch singles into doubles and make outstanding plays in left field.

To the naysayer, consider that this is his first full season as a starter in college baseball. He is a sophomore. Other than spending the summer in the Coastal Plain League (summer wooden bat league in Virginia) where he started 15 games, Dickey hasn't played competitive baseball since 2001.

"I think it (playing in the Coastal Plain League) helped me a lot because I needed live at bats," the 5-11, 190-pound speedster said. "That's the one thing that helped out a lot. Getting a lot of at bats and a lot of playing time. It was a short time there, but it really helped. Using the wooden bats helps your swing so much. You have to stay short and compact and that helped a lot."

Playing next to senior Jeff Corsaletti has also helped Dickey. Dickey has watched with amazement at some of the defensive gems by the player selected twice to the College Baseball Foundation National Honor Roll.

"Playing next to Jeff is inspiring," Dickey stated with a smile. "He is a tremendous player who can really do it all. He always seems to make a play. He can go get it on the wall or cut it off in the gap. It doesn't matter. You know he'll make the play."

Dickey has had a few learning curves to negotiate while learning to play left field, but he has certainly gotten better. He tracked down two balls against South Carolina that helped Florida defeat the Gamecocks. Carolina first baseman Stephen Pierce ripped a ball to the left field wall that would've gone for extra bases. However, Dickey hurried over and hauled in the fly ball, leaving Pierce jogging back to the dugout. Later, he pulled centerfielder Michael Campbell's deep fly ball back into Alfred McKeithan Stadium. Corsaletti told Dickey immediately after the play that the ball was over the wall.

Football has also helped Dickey to an extent. I asked Dickey if the aggressive nature of the game, especially in the Meyer Era has made him a more aggressive player on the baseball field.

"Definitely," he said. "Sometimes I'm so anxious over here because of being at football that I've got to stop and slow things down because you can't rush too much over here. Coach Meyer and Coach [McMahon] are two different personalities [laughing]. But, when you get down to it, they just want to win, and they both want to win the right way."

Dickey began the baseball season as the starter but quickly lost his starting position, only to come back and stamp his name on the lineup card two weeks later with a hammer and chisel. That, in itself, should convince any who choose to question his abilities that he can make up ground quickly.

"I've just been working everyday to try to get better" he stated. "Coach Fleetwood and Coach Parenton have been working with me everyday in the cage. Those guys are great, and they have helped me get better and better. I still have to improve. Sometimes I take pitches that I shouldn't. I'm seeing the ball better, but even that needs to improve. I have to work hard everyday to stay in the starting lineup."

He also gets to catch up with Lincoln football Coach David Wilson often enough. His sister is in one of Wilson's classes, and the two get caught up often about the former All-State athlete.

"Actually, he [Wilson] was up at football practice a few weeks ago. I got to go over and speak with him. He brought a few guys up with him. He calls me up every now and then. My sister is at Lincoln too, so we get caught up."

Now that spring football is over, Dickey will be speaking with Coaches Mullen and Meyer soon to see just what aspects of his football he needs to address in the football offseason. Chances are that he won't get to work on them until June when he hopes the Florida baseball team returns from Omaha.

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