Elijah Dukes: "Everybody Vibing"
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.
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