Pictured: Hartford outfielder Tim Dickson doubled in his first at-bat as a Hawk. He started six of the team’s 12 games before the season was canceled. (Steve Simoneau photo)

By Paul Augeri

The game conditions at Stetson University were cold and windy. The left-hander’s fastball? It was soft enough that Tim Dickson knew he could hit it. The first pitch missed inside for ball one.

It took Dickson more than two years to earn Plate Appearance No. 1 with the University of Hartford. By way of the Xavier High and Middletown American Legion Post 75 baseball programs, he walked onto the Hawks in the fall of 2017.

First and foremost, after being accepted at Hartford, he was there for the academics and his field of concentration, insurance and risk management. Yet it wasn’t as if Dickson was going to surrender to the baseball gods and give up the sport just because he wasn’t a recruit on a scholarship.

Still, with veterans ahead of him on the depth chart, he went the redshirt route as a freshman, which limited him to practices and dressing only for home games.

His second year at Hartford, Dickson did not have a roster spot. It meant he wasn’t allowed even practicing with the team.

Last summer, having since aged out of the Post 75 program, Dickson played for Malloves Jewelers in the Greater Hartford Twilight League. Along the way, his phone buzzed.

“This summer, he (coach Justin Blood) reached out to me and told me I’d be on the roster no matter what,” Dickson said.

For thousands of NCAA Division I players, Dickson’s is a relatable journey. Maybe the thought of all the time and energy he poured into the chance to play popped into his head when he dug into the batter’s box at Melching Field in DeLand, Florida, on the night of Feb. 21.

“That Friday night at Stetson, when I saw my name on the lineup card, I felt like I deserved to be on it but was still a little shocked and surprised at the same time,” Dickson said. “I never assumed I would get the start.”

The second pitch from Stetson’s starter mistakenly passed over the heart of the plate. Dickson, a 5-foot-11, 185-pound right-handed hitter batting out of the ninth hole, was ready. He laced it to the right-field corner for a two-out double.

A sweet moment in time to say the least.

“When I noticed their guy was not throwing too hard, I went up there looking to hit,” Dickson said. “I was just trying to get on base to keep the (third) inning going. When he missed his spot, I put a good swing on it and got a nice piece of it the opposite way.

“It was a good moment and a great start for me, after all the hard work, to see it pay off.”

Dickson, who played right field, had a productive night at the plate in Hartford’s 6-3 victory over Stetson. He reached base three times, scored one run and drove in one.

Hartford’s season, like so many others around the nation, came to a sudden end last week around the time that the COVID-19 virus was declared a global pandemic. Dickson left campus last Friday and has two weeks off before the university expects to begin a virtual learning program.

Because Hartford’s baseball season was scrapped after just 12 games, Dickson, who will be a fourth-year student this fall, will have two remaining seasons of baseball eligibility.

“It’s been kind of tough, me waiting two years for this season,” he said, “and we had a great start as a team. I was excited to see what we could do this season.”

Stetson went on to win the next two in the three-game series against Hartford. The Hawks took two of three from North Florida in Jacksonville, then returned to Connecticut and beat Central 8-5 on March 4.

Hartford lost what would be its last two games of the 2020 season — 5-2 to UConn, the Hawks’ one game played at Fiondella Field in West Hartford, and 3-1 at Northeastern. Hartford finished 6-6.

Dickson made six starts and appeared in eight of the 12 games. He finished with four hits and two RBIs in 19 at-bats.

“Whenever I saw my name in the lineup, it was a surprise and a nice thing to see,” he said. “For me, I didn’t have a problem waiting my turn. I respect people who wait their turn.”

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