The first half of the scene was familiar. Alex Dickerson got hold of one, driving it over the arcade in right field. He started his journey around the bases, and that's where it got strange.
The Giants' left fielder circled the bases in a quiet ballpark, sending an air high-five to third base coach Mark Hallberg. He grabbed his bat from the home plate umpire and retreated to the dugout, where there were just a few solitary claps.
Alex Dickerson hit a bomb in first inning of today’s simulated game. Sadly, no Dick chants in an empty ballpark. pic.twitter.com/ejCa1SJeSl— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) July 14, 2020
The "Dick!" chant, one of the defining parts of last season for the Giants, apparently is not fit for intrasquad games, and it likely will have to be reimagined. The Giants won't be able to gather en masse around one player this season, but they anticipate finding new celebrations. They're hopeful Dickerson gives them plenty more reasons to chant, too.
Dickerson looked capable on Tuesday, hitting a soaring homer off Shaun Anderson that was the highlight of an intrasquad game. It was the kind of swing he took often last summer when he briefly turned the fortunes of the whole big league club. Dickerson batted .386 over his first 30 games with the Giants, with six homers, 10 doubles and 23 RBI. The team went 20-10, briefly sneaking into the back of the wild card pack.
A year later, a run like that would make Dickerson an MVP candidate in a 60-game season. It would allow the Giants to actually make good on their many Summer Camp proclamations that they intend to contend. But is a repeat possible?
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"You're always striving for that," Dickerson said during a Zoom call with reporters. "You don't try to put that kind of pressure on yourself because the reason why I hit as well as I did was that I hadn't played in two years and I was just playing baseball and having fun competing. I'm trying to get back to that mindset as fast as possible. I want to get back to that point where I just feel like I'm having fun playing a game and just trying to compete again."
Whether he likes it or not, there will be more pressure this time around. Dickerson is no longer the flyer taken by Farhan Zaidi. He's now set for a heart-of-the-lineup role and will be a crucial bat against right-handed pitchers. The good news is that Dickerson also is no longer getting crushed by back pain. He said his back feels great and has throughout this unique ramp-up.
The key, of course, is keeping it that way. Dickerson's summer charge was halted by an oblique strain and he didn't homer in 26 appearances over the final two months. To stay out of the trainer's room, Dickerson has had to adjust his routine as the Giants cut down on the amount of time players can spend at the ballpark and where they can go.
A year ago, Dickerson would show at noon for a 7 p.m. game and do about 2 1/2 hours of maintenance work on his body. He said he has had to cut that to about an hour per day because of new restrictions, but thus far it hasn't been an issue. Dickerson said he'll likely just do more work at home and at hotels before games.
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"The staff has been great at adjusting to that," he said. "We're all going through this. It's not going to be perfect this year and you've got to find a way to get by."
Dickerson's aim is to stay healthy over 60 games in which the Giants hope to be a dark horse. He showed last year what a game-changer he can be when right. It was a stretch that ended right as the Giants visited Gabe Kapler's Phillies at the end of July.
Asked Tuesday about what he remembers from that series, Kapler started chuckling. He admitted that any time he's asked about Dickerson he can't help but smile simply because the outfielder has such a dry sense of humor. But Kapler wasn't laughing last summer as he tried to figure out how to prepare for a surging Giants team.
"We were game-planning for him as especially dangerous against right-handed pitching," Kapler said. "We had to have left-handed pitching ready for him. We were a little bit aware and continue to be aware of his health history. Our number one concern is making sure that we keep him healthy.
"We think if Alex Dickerson is healthy, he is a very, very dangerous weapon against right-handed pitching."