R.A. Dickey was ready to make his first throws in a Blue Jays uniform. Just a game of catch. A bit of long-toss on the grass in the outfield.

But, amazingly, catchers had become suspiciously scarce. Weren’t there a couple of the young receivers hanging around just a minute ago? Somebody? Anybody?

“All of a sudden, it was just Dane (Johnson, the club’s minor league pitching instructor) and me,” said manager John Gibbons a bit later.

Johnson drew the short straw. He has caught many a pitcher in his day but never a knuckleballer. On this day, he was brave in the attempt.

For about 10 minutes, Johnson danced and deked and dove almost like the nasty, spinless orb he was trying to catch. “You can’t lose focus, not for a second,” he said.

In the end, he got the ultimate compliment from Dickey.

“I’m just meeting a lot of people for the first time today and they say (Johnson’s) nickname is ‘The Total Package’ and I’d have to say that’s one thing he does well,” said Dickey. “I don’t know yet about the total package, but he does the knuckleball package pretty well.”

So does Dickey. Six years after embarking on a voyage of discovery, trying to harness a pitch that few can throw and even fewer can control, Dickey won a Cy Young Award in 2012 and now brings his magic act to Toronto.

“I can say it’s been a difficult, arduous journey, but at the same, time really rewarding,” he said. “My hope is to continue to grow at my craft and what I do. Hopefully, I’ll be able to present that in a consistent way on the field time after time.”

Change, often nasty and abrupt, has been the only constant in R.A. Dickey’s life. He survived his formative years despite an alcoholic mother and an unreachable father, as well as episodes of sexual abuse. He was a baseball star in college, a power pitcher who earned a first-round selection and a big bonus from the Texas Rangers only to have it all taken away when it was discovered he was born without an ulnar collateral tendon in his pitching elbow.