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.
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