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Alex Dickerson. Courtesy photo
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Carlsbad’s Dickerson gets his shot with the champs

Before Alex Dickerson was a father, he was “Grandpa.”

Dickerson, of Carlsbad, is the Atlanta Braves’ designated hitter. But prior to Dickerson landing in the South, the former North County prep standout earned a nickname that didn’t match his birth certificate.

“Whenever I hear that, it brings me back to my high school days in Poway,” Dickerson said. “I’m not sure how it has surfaced again, but it has.”

Rewind to Dickerson’s teenage years when he also played football at Poway. After his sophomore season, Dickerson underwent back surgery, which cost him his junior year in athletics but delivered a moniker that stuck.

Dickerson, as expected, hobbled around after getting his back back on track. With him shuffling around campus looking like someone 75 instead of 15, “Grandpa” came to life.

No matter the years, or team, Dickerson is always happy to be back at Petco Park.

“It’s really exciting,” Dickerson said during the Braves’ recent visit to christen the Padres’ home schedule. “Because I always know I’ll have someone there to support me.”

Once Dickerson caught a fly ball to end the inning and turned to throw it into the stands. Lo and behold the fan on the other end was a familiar face.

“It was a high school teammate I hadn’t heard from in a long time,” Dickerson said. “He said, ‘Hey Alex,’ and I said, ‘Hi Tony, nice seeing you but I got to go in.”

The Braves are all-in on the left-handed-hitting Dickerson giving them some pop in the lineup and some occasional work in the outfield.

“We’re looking at him to drive in some runs,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “But he might have to hit one off the hands to do it.”

Dickerson has been finding the barrel but the ball isn’t finding open spaces.

So despite him going 1-for-21 to start the season, no one wearing a Braves uniform is panicking.

Including Dickerson.

“It’s a lot different than when I was in high school,” Dickerson said. “I would stress out if I didn’t get a hit against Rancho Bernardo.”

Dickerson’s occupation has provided him with perspective. Yes, he’s in the majors and no, it hasn’t been a smooth stretch of highway in reaching them.

“There’s been a lot of hard work,” Dickerson said. “And a lot of ups and downs.”

It’s been the baseball equivalent of a carnival ride.

Dickerson was all-everything at Indiana University, including being named the Big Ten Conference’s top player in 2010. After the Pittsburgh Pirates drafted him in the third round the following year, those tracking Dickerson saw him excel at every minor league level.

His journey has included two stints with the Padres (2015-16, ’19), the San Francisco Giants (2019-21) and now the Braves, the defending world champions.

In Dickerson’s orbit, it’s been quite a journey. It’s one that has seen him battle through ankle, hip, back, shoulder and hamstring ailments.

Dickerson is feeling good now and it shows.

“I’ve always enjoyed watching him hit,” Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson said. “He’s got that smooth, left-handed swing.”

It was Tony Gwynn’s stroke that Dickerson admired while going to countless Padres game while growing up. That the late Gwynn also resided in Poway made him extra special in Dickerson’s eyes.

“I always said he was a neighbor,” Dickerson said. “But, actually, he lived on the other side of the town.”

Dickerson is realizing most every baseball-playing kid’s dream and he doesn’t take it lightly. That’s why Dickerson was back at Poway during the offseason, honing his craft with his former hitting coach, Deron Johnson.

And Bob Parry, Dickerson’s ex-head coach at Poway, is always quick with an encouraging word.

Being fast is something Dickerson needs to be now that “Grandpa” became a dad in 2020. Little Levi is usually on the prowl in their Carlsbad home, except he’s not very little anymore.

“He is a big kid,” said Dickerson, and few things match the pride of the father. “He’s in the 100% percentile in every group and he’s really strong.”

Levi will soon realize how often his daddy’s strong will was tested. It started when he first answered to “Grandpa.”

Contact Jay Paris at [email protected] and follow him @jparis_sports