Brandon Dickson, who was with the Cardinals in 2011 and 2012, has spent the last five years playing in Japan and is going back there next year. (File)

By Rob Rains

Miles Mikolas went to Japan with the mindset that it was going to be a temporary move and that one day he would return to pitch in the major leagues. For Shohei Ohtani, pitching in his native country always came with the understanding that he would one day be heading to the major leagues.

Both of those pitchers got their wish in the last week, with Mikolas signing a two-year deal with the Cardinals and Ohtani going to the Los Angeles Angels.

Every pitcher in Japan, however, is not intent on jumping to the major leagues. A former Cardinal, Brandon Dickson, might be at the top of that list.

Dickson, who was with the Cardinals for parts of the 2011 and 2012 seasons, has spent the last five years with the Orix Buffaloes of the Japan Pacific League. Before he left the country at the end of this season to return to his home in Alabama for the winter he signed another two-year contract with the team.

“I know some foreigners have gone over there and not had good experiences,” Dickson said in a telephone interview. “Our team has been a food fit for me and my family, both baseball-wise and just living there.

“I feel like the experience over there is pretty amazing. As far as the fans go, it’s unprecedented. You can’t find that anywhere in the States. You have to go to a playoff type atmosphere to see that. The fans really love it; they are standing the whole time and it’s been a fun experience for me.

“My first game over there kind of blew me away and I’ve been in love with it ever since.”

Dickson, now 33, has started at least 20 games each of his five years in Japan and has a career ERA in that league of 3.30. He moved to Japan after making eight appearances for the Cardinals in 2011 and 2012, his fifth and sixth years in the organization.

“It was a little bit of an adjustment to the culture and how serious they take every aspect to their training and everything,” Dickson said. “It’s worked out good for me.

“I feel like the people who are open to it have good success over there but if you go over there and you’re not open to listening to any of their ways or how they go about playing the game, they see that right away and kind of put you on the backburner. You have to be open to the way they play the game.”

Dickson believes there are a lot of players in Japan who could come to the major leagues and have success. He did not see Mikolas pitch in person because they were in different leagues - Mikolas was on the Yomiuri Giants - but Dickson did have plenty of exposure to Ohtani.

“We were in the same division so we faced him quite a bit,” Dickson said. “He’s a special player for sure. I’ve seen him hit and pitch, and playing against him I didn’t want to see him do either one.”

Ohtani had one homer off Dickson in his career.

“One in five years, so I think that’s pretty good,” Dickson said. “I’ll take that. I never got to hit off him but I’m not disappointed about that.”

Ohtani intends to be a two-way player with the Angels, and Dickson believes that he will be able to have success in the majors as both a pitcher and hitter.

“There’s going to be a little bit of a learning curve for him,” Dickson predicted. “He’s still young, he’s only 23. He absolutely has the ability and the talent to do very well in the States. I hope he just takes off. There’s no reason he can’t do it.”

Dickson was able to spend time with Ohtani a couple of years ago when they were teammates on an All-Star team.

“I got to talk with him,” Dickson said. “He was really interested about coming over here. … He’s going to put people in the stands because I think they want to see a two-way player. He’s going to be good one way or the other.”

Dickson believes there will continue to be players who leave Japan to come to the United States but at the same time he believes there are others who realize staying there is a better fit for them and their careers.

“There are a lot of guys who want to come over but I think a lot of them know they would not have a legitimate chance to be on a big league team,” Dickson said. “There are a lot of guys on my team who would love to come over here to play but they understand the reality that staying where they are is better for them.

“It’s good, competitive baseball there but overall the talent level is probably a little below that of the major leagues but that does not keep the fans from loving it.”

Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains

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