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Elijah Dukes: "Everybody Vibing"

Dukes, joking with fans.

Elijah Dukes addressed the media this afternoon inside the spring training clubhouse. This is apparently something of a special opportunity. As previously mentioned, I saw a very relaxed and friendly Dukes spend several minutes hanging out with fans earlier in the day, signing autographs and making jokes. He seemed slightly less at ease while addressing the media at his locker, keeping his iPod earbuds in his ears for the entire five-minute session. I got there a moment late, while Dukes was addressing his final stint on the IR injured list last year. The transcript picks up at that point, with Dukes speaking.

"It wasn't nothing, really, probably was a little fatigue from just the other surgeries and stuff putting the impact on my right leg all the time. Because my left leg was hurting, that's all it was really, so I had to basically even them out by strengthening up both of my legs instead of one."

What's the goal this year in terms of your offense, and your defense?

"Well you know, I've got to get a job first. You know, I'm still competing right now, so who knows? That comes after basically making the team and getting a job, really."

You don't think you have a job?

"No, I'm just saying, I'm competing right now. You know what I'm talking about as far as the competing part. Competing. We've got a lot of outfielders and we're competing out here, so I'm gonna go out there and compete. And after I make the team or get a job, then I can tell y'all what my future plans are. But until then, I don't know."

How big of a step was last season for you, what you were able to do when you were on the field, and how much can you take with whatever the next step might be?

"You know, it was good after I came up out of that little slump. I started enjoying playing the baseball a little bit more. I was just getting used to the team, pressing a little bit at first, and once I started getting a little bit comfortable, I started doing a little bit better, [and] I started feeling better about myself. You get to know people, you feel a lot better to play with them than you do not knowing the person next to you. So once I got to know everybody, I felt a little bit comfortable."

Does that make a big difference coming into spring training this year, where you know a lot of these guys already? How much easier does that make it?

"It's real different. You see guys around here, everybody speaking to you, talking, because we're kind of familiar with each other now. Instead of going to a new team, you don't know nobody, you can't really conversate with too many people. But over here, it seems like everybody pretty much know everybody, so we kind of got that same little chemistry we had at the end of the year last year going."

Lastings kind of said the same thing, that it's more of a family now. Did you get a chance to bond with any of these guys in the offseason?

"Yeah, a couple people. Lastings,Willie, I even got to chill with Zimmerman in the offseason a lot. Manny Acta, I seen him a couple times in the offseason. I was around the field a lot, chilling with a lot of these guys every time they come by. We can all vibe, the vibe is good out here, everybody vibing together."

Elijah, you know what kind of player you are when you're healthy. Is there anything in your mind that you want to really improve on for yourself, in terms of part of your game?

"Oh, I don't know. I guess I'd probably have to say being consistent, really. I really haven't been [as] consistent, to me, in the big leagues as I was in the minor leagues. I guess that has to do with a lot of confidence, too, you know, maturing and the comfort level. The comfort level is a bit higher once you get used to the big-league ways. It's different up here than it is in the minor leagues. You're a little bit more comfortable there, not a lot of high expectations for you as it is up here when you've got to do your job."

What was your offseason like, baseball-wise? What kind of stuff were you doing?

"I was just doing lessons, I didn't do too much. That's all. Just working out with one guy, that's it, I didn't really do too much. Working out here and there, but my game is mental, so that's what I do. So y'all see me taking BP? That's only the third time right there. So put that in your notes." [He was joking with that last part.]

What do you mean your game is mental?

"That's what I do, I visualize hitting. That's part of my game, visualizing. Just keeping the swing going in my mind. That's how I play. I always play that way."

How often do you visualize it?

"All the time. I don't never really hit in the offseason. I start hitting when I get to Spring Training. That's how I [do it], because I'm always thinking about the game of baseball. That kind of keeps you refreshed. I can never forget what I did, because I'm always remembering. Every day I go over it. That's how I play."

How much of a distraction is the off-field stuff still, and how much in your life are you dealing with it?

"I'm done. That's it. You ruined it buddy."

And that's pretty much how the thing ended.

By Dan Steinberg  |  February 18, 2009; 3:04 PM ET
Categories:  Nats  
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thats a pretty awesome ending to the interview. who was the reporter that asked the off-the-field question?

Posted by: jpfterps | February 18, 2009 3:16 PM | Report abuse

I'm seriously in awe. This stuff is great. It's exactly the kind of material I'm craving. Steinberg, you're an awesome blogger.

And yea, feel sorry for the guy who asked about the off-field stuff. Wasn't Chico, was it?

Posted by: NatsNut | February 18, 2009 3:24 PM | Report abuse

It may be that he's not able to talk about it, for a number of reasons. I think it is a perfectly reasonable question for the press, and it is reasonable for fans to wonder about it... but I also think it is reasonable to not want to talk about those things.

Posted by: wigi | February 18, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, it's the age old give and take between reporter and reportee. Anyone else struck by Dukes' humility? I wasn't expecting that. He's being well life-coached.

Posted by: Section506 | February 18, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Atleast he didn't say, "You ruined it, Dawg."

Posted by: frog7694 | February 18, 2009 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, Dan. Very good. Interesting and good sign that he hung out a little bit with the other guys, including Zimmerman. At Fanfest, maybe?

Posted by: CapPeterson | February 18, 2009 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Dan, thanks for the hard work... you're doing what we would do if we had press credentials and were in Florida.

Except you're doing it better...

Posted by: wigi | February 18, 2009 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Good stuff Dan.

Posted by: Offense-offensive | February 18, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse

He apparently got through the year without impregnating someone else or sending threatening text messages to another of the mothers of his children. And he sure needs a job. So I'm optimstic.

Posted by: Lindemann777 | February 18, 2009 3:49 PM | Report abuse

The most reassuring part of it all was the comfort level discussion. Once Elijah found his comfort zone last year, he came right out of the [anything but mini] slump that he was in last season. I remember sitting at a game in May with my buddy, looking at his average of .067, recognizing that he'd been hurt a bit, but wondering if he'd ever get it together. Then the light went on, and he hit .300 for 3 straight months, and jacked his OBP up over .400 for the last 2/3 of the season (during the times that he was playing). If he starts in a comfort zone, then we've got something special brewing in RF, and Austin's well on his way to 4th OF status unless he bats 1.000 for spring training.

Posted by: faNATic | February 18, 2009 3:53 PM | Report abuse

I guess I don't blame reporters for asking, but I also kind of admire the strategy. Talk all you want about baseball but don't cross over. This is essentially the Jeter Maneuver less expertly executed. Talk baseball, break when reporters go off script.

Posted by: natbisquit | February 18, 2009 4:09 PM | Report abuse

This stuff is great - thanks Steinberg!

Posted by: PattyinSJ | February 18, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Natstown 2009: Everybody Vibing Together.

Posted by: BobLHead | February 18, 2009 4:21 PM | Report abuse

I'm pickin' up good vibrations

(oom bop bop good vibrations)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 18, 2009 4:39 PM | Report abuse

It sounds like he's healthy and getting his head on straight to reach his full potential. A .300/.400/.500 season with 30+ HRs is very attainable with minimal "if" factor.

Posted by: WonkRoll | February 18, 2009 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Also, just a tip, we call it the "DL" in baseball.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 18, 2009 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Elijah Dukes: playing the baseball.

Posted by: JohninMpls | February 18, 2009 5:16 PM | Report abuse

Steinz, yes!

If only all our people at the NJ came over to restore your comments action street cred.

Posted by: NattyDelite | February 18, 2009 5:17 PM | Report abuse

Elijah Dukes is a woman-threatening scumbag.

Hate to be all PC, but I'd rather see you write funny entries about people who are moderately more decent.

Posted by: smutsboy | February 18, 2009 5:51 PM | Report abuse

I don't understand this post:

I guess I don't blame reporters for asking, but I also kind of admire the strategy. Talk all you want about baseball but don't cross over. This is essentially the Jeter Maneuver less expertly executed. Talk baseball, break when reporters go off script.

Posted by: natbisquit | February 18, 2009 4:09 PM

What's been holding Dukes back from realizing his potential? His inability to stay out of trouble off the field, mostly. For Dukes, until he has a track record indicating otherwise, what he considers to be "off script" is actually integral to his performance.

Posted by: Lindemann777 | February 18, 2009 7:15 PM | Report abuse

the baseball... is that like the google?

Posted by: misschatter | February 19, 2009 7:41 AM | Report abuse

this is good stuff, thanks!

Posted by: longterm | February 20, 2009 9:00 AM | Report abuse

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