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More On Elijah Dukes

Here's the story from Tuesday's pulp edition on Elijah Dukes. Personal confession: It feels almost like a transgression against journalistic standards to write a Dukes story without the Previous Sins Paragraph. Maybe it was irresponsible to leave it out. If you want good detail on the more familiar Dukes, read this and this and this. Every layer here is an integral part of the Dukes story. Performance will dictate whether or not he establishes a long career with the Washington Nationals, but his history will always color his perception.

I admit, I wrote this story under the assumption that everybody by now knows all that history. There's another side to Dukes, and even those who don't like his personality acknowledge that he's an intense competitor with a desire to succeed as an athlete. He's also really darn quotable.

Here are some excerpts from our conversation. In honor of Mr. Svrluga, these are the segments that didn't make the paper.


Q: Getting sent down to Syracuse earlier this year, was that kind of a shock when it happened?

DUKES: Oh yeah it was a shock. I mean, it was a shock to me. I had no idea that I was going to be going down. I was hitting .244 with 44 RBI, six home runs, being like third on the team in RBIs. I didn't really think those numbers would get me sent down. And 10 assists at the time. But when it happened, I tried not to take it too hard. I just kept doing my job. Because I've been there before, in the minors. I never thought that I was too good to go back, either. At the same time, I just went back down there and worked hard. I'm back here now, and sometimes I never even remembered that I went down there. Somebody will [mention Syracuse] and I'll say, 'Oh yeah.' It went so quick. Because I was just doing my work. I wanted to be there as short as I can. It's OK, though. As long as there's a baseball field. The fun is on the field.


Q: You were a pitcher growing up?

All the way through high school. Until I hurt my shoulder playing football. Then I lost the velocity, because I bruised my shoulder and ended up losing my velocity. My arm was getting weaker and weaker and nobody knew what was going on until the doctor said, 'Your shoulder is kind of separated a little bit.' So I had to get into the weight room and tighten that back up. But I was about 95 mph as a 14-year-old... Alan Hicks, he was my coach basically all the way through Little League 'til I got to high school, basically; he was a good motivator. He always made me hungry for it, the way he went about it. He was like 40 years old, and he'd go running the bases with us and stuff. I was like, 'Damn, that's legit.' I like that. I like a guy that doesn't just talk about it. He used to always have this one saying: 'I eat, sleep, and [poop] baseball.' That's what he did, and he was not lying. Every day he'd come get me -- Sundays. He'd wake me up! I'd be asleep. My dad said [to Alan], you can come into the house any time you want. So he'd come into the house, he'd come into my room, wake me up and say, Let's go. We'd go drive to his house, go to his backyard, and we'd hit tires with a baseball bat. We'd tie it up on a tree and just drive through it. And when I hit it I hit it. Little stuff like that, on Sundays. He'd say, 'Hey, while all those other guys are sleeping, we're working.' And we were. We were.


Q: What were the most rushing yards you ever had in high school?

I used to get 200-plus yards, a lot. I'd do that on, like, 11 carries. I think I had a high-eight average per carry. I was probably more like nine or 10 yards per carry. Second quarter I'd be on the sideline... But I never thought I had it made. Ask anybody. After the games, while everybody else was out partying and stuff, I used to be on the couch, ice under and over my knee -- I'd leave the field and go buy two bags of ice -- and I'd watch film. At my house. That's all I did. I'd watch video. My little cousin, he'd be sitting right next to me. He plays football and baseball now in high school, and he'll tell you. We'd watch football. That's all I did. No parties; my friends would have to drag me out. Sometimes there'd even be like five or six of us at the house, teammates, even guys from the other team. We'd all be watching football. Because we was close. We grew up together. We'd all be chilling. It was just fun for us. It was amazing to see what we came from.

By Chico Harlan  |  September 22, 2009; 7:10 AM ET
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Next: Lineups From Nationals Park


Like I said in the last post, i love it. And trust me, Chico, I know i sure don't need yet another rehash of his transgressions. It's tired. Does the guy not have ANY other interesting thing about him besides the wife and teammate problems?

You've shown us that he does. Thanks.

Posted by: NatsNut | September 22, 2009 7:42 AM | Report abuse

Love the stuff that describes the athlete and youth sports: what they did, how they practiced, and so forth. Examples: above, the "When It Clicked" section in the Sunday pulp edition, etc. I often bring the lessons back to our in-home youth player.

It looks like Mr. Dukes put in the requisite 10,000 hours (see Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell).

Snark: another 1000 hours and perhaps he can go the other way on outside pitches.

Posted by: joemktg1 | September 22, 2009 8:23 AM | Report abuse

Elijah Dukes has had some negative parts of his life and private life come public. How many athletes have had worse issues that never became public?

Since coming back from AAA, I have seen a different person in his interaction with his teammates.

Let's hope all of Elijah's problems are behind him and he can be a great player, teammate and citizen.

It would be nice when you can read a positive article about Dukes like in the Post today without a followup with the links of negativity. Personally, if I wanted the re-hash, I could have Google'd it.

Posted by: dmacman88 | September 22, 2009 8:27 AM | Report abuse

No doubt that this guy is a ringer. Gotta love the fact that he looked at baseball as a real challenge instead of just something to do instead of football. I'm convinced that so many kids today just aren't interested in playing baseball because its just to hard. If they can get him to hit the curveball, stop making mental mistakes on the basepaths and hit to the opposite field consistently then by gosh they have thier RF for many years to come. Go Elijah!

Posted by: TippyCanoe | September 22, 2009 8:31 AM | Report abuse

I remember the little video clip of Dukes hitting golf balls in ST '08. That was a great glimpse into his intensity and sense of humor.

Posted by: twinbrook | September 22, 2009 8:53 AM | Report abuse

Chico - Nice article on Dukes, and I agree that we don't need a compulsory rehash of his past. How nice that the story now concerns whether Dukes can learn to hit the curve. I'm pulling for the guy, and not just as a Nat. The world is full of fine people who could not hit the curve.

Posted by: KenNat | September 22, 2009 9:02 AM | Report abuse

Awesome story Chico and no need to apologize about bringing up Elijah's past, we all do know it and to bring it up tarnishes the man that Elijah is trying to be now. the best part of this story is that the "ending" is unknown, I hope Elijah amazes us and himself in 2010.

Posted by: markfd | September 22, 2009 9:56 AM | Report abuse


Thanx for the in-depth profile of one of the most enigmatic Nats. Because Dukes doesn't do much talking for publication, it's easy for him to be defined by his past transgressions. Much of my opinion about him was formed by third parties ("cancer in the clubhouse") and I was willing to write him off as another Milton Bradley. But Dukes seems to have his demons more under control and really wants to succeed as a baseball player. Now, about those knees....

Posted by: leetee1955 | September 22, 2009 10:31 AM | Report abuse


don't worry about not including the dukes back story. most nats fans are aware that he didn't come an "ozzie and harriet" lifestyle. often, dwelling on a person's past is what keeps them from going forward.

Posted by: surly_w | September 22, 2009 10:37 AM | Report abuse

Let's not undersell Dukes' past. These weren't minor transgressions, it was completely inexcusable. I don't think it needs to be rehashed in every story, or he needs to carry around the epithet "troubled" given his good behavior of late.

We allow for people to redeem themselves, so we can say "what you did was terrible, what you've done since then is great."

Posted by: Section506 | September 22, 2009 10:46 AM | Report abuse

There isn't a true Nats fan or follower that doesn't know the past mistakes Elijah has made. Good points by "all" on here.

My favorite story of the year was Elijah doing something nice for the McLean Little League and then get publicly hung out to dry on being a few minutes late. My own feelings were the old regime didn't like him and support him while Jim Riggleman has embraced him.

I have been a vocal supporter on here before when Elijah was in a slump so I won't beat the drum on Elijah's potential but so happy Chico decided to dedicate a piece to Elijah.

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | September 22, 2009 10:51 AM | Report abuse

The bottom line is that Elijah Dukes has serious anger management issues that led to his past problems. I sincerely hope he has developed the maturity and the tools to continue to keep those under control.

Posted by: longhorn64 | September 22, 2009 11:37 AM | Report abuse

Nice article, Chico.
Unrelated information: There's somebody somewhere in Los Angeles that thinks Ronnie Belliard should start over Orlando Cabrera.

Posted by: jaumiusk | September 22, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Cliff (aka @periculum)

How many pronouncements can you make in one day? Give it a rest. You must think you are the world's leading authority on baseball. All you are accomplishing is to drive people away from this site. We finally outlasted Jaybee, but you don't seem to realize how pompous your pronouncements are getting. GIVE IT A REST.

Posted by: WashOut


Mr. Negativity, WashOut, Sour grapes Crabby Appleton, bitter old man: Can't stand the fact that JD Martin has done well and that I am a Chiefs fan?

Too bad due

Posted by: periculum | September 22, 2009 12:10 PM | Report abuse

It's not so much that I lack faith in Dukes potential as it is a demand for results now that lead me lobby for replacement. I root for him to succeed personally and professionally. But, his attention deficit on the basepaths and his consistency at bat provide the opportunity for a better player to take his roster/lineup spot next year. If I'm making out a lineup, I want to write in Joe Performance. I'm leaving Joe Potential on the bench.

Posted by: natbiscuits | September 22, 2009 12:23 PM | Report abuse

"The bottom line is that Elijah Dukes has serious anger management issues that led to his past problems. I sincerely hope he has developed the maturity and the tools to continue to keep those under control."

"Posted by: longhorn64 | September 22, 2009"

At the expense of further incensing WashOut the grumpy old dwarf ...

Most statistics show that the vast majority of people who get into this sort of trouble are between the ages of 16-25. There's your prison population. Another stat shows that a whopping majority often suffer from the so-called mild brain disorder known as AD/HD.

It may be a part of the maturity process? Certainly our forefathers had the right idea when they invented the modern prison system in which rehabilitation rather than incarceration was its primary purpose. Well, they needed every man they could get ... there used to be a shortage of people ... ~smiles~

Hopefully, Dukes has matured and learned from his hard experiences. I sure hope so. His anger appears to sometimes turn into slumps and lackadaisical performances ... attitude. If he can overcome this he can be one of the best players in the game.

Posted by: periculum | September 22, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

The bottom line is that Elijah Dukes has serious anger management issues that led to his past problems.

Posted by: longhorn64 | September 22, 2009 11:37 AM

I don't think that's the bottom line at all. He HAD anger management issues. Now the bottom line is that we have a player on the cusp who has a chance to break out. That is all.

Posted by: NatsNut | September 22, 2009 1:16 PM | Report abuse

NatsNut - Well said! Somebody once said if you have nothing positive to say, don't say anything at all which is a little far fetched for a sports column however you can accentuate the positive and it was long overdue to so a positive story on Elijah Dukes. I am just rooting for him to continue to succeed on all levels.

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | September 22, 2009 1:49 PM | Report abuse

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