Are we seeing the True Elijah Dukes?
I wanted to believe that former Rays bad boy Elijah Dukes has changed. Based on his actions this weekend in Tropicana fielkd you thought the guy might have finally gotten the idea on how to act upon a major league field, and off it. He did have a great series against his fomer tm as he went 4-12 with 2 RBI and 2 runs scored.
The Washington Nationals did however kind of place him in a plastic bubble and not let him give any statements or interviews while he was here, but he did perform like you had hoped a good ballplayer would after confrontation and controversy follow you. But then we also did not know alot about Dukes since he left the team. We did not know about incidents and confrontations with players and opposition fans around the National League.
I really was going to give him a mountain of respect from me for the way he kept his composure in rightfield on Friday night when the hecklers really got into prime spirits about his family matters and past screw ups. I do not know who the group of guys were, but they sure knew a lot of things about Dukes personal life. The guys heckling him in Section 140 sure knew a lot about his personal life and made sure he heard every word of it. But I was going to give him props on the way he took the chant “That baby don’t look like me” from the crowd and seemed to bounce on the field in perfect cadence with the taunt. But then I did not know anything else about his action this season with the Nationals.
But it is not like he has totally been without sin or problems even this season for the Nationals. There was an incident in the Nationals dugout earlier in the week where Nationals Manager Manny Acta and Dukes got into a verbal argument in plain sight of the television cameras after a pretty animated home run celebration. It was not Dukes who hit the bomb, but team mate Lasting Milledge, who is also a guy from the Tampa Bay area with a checkered past.
Worst of all, Dukes showed up his manager by faking the high-five and dropping his hand as he approached Acta in the post-game celebration on the field. Ugly. According to the Washington Times, “As Dukes and Milledge crossed the plate, Dukes looked back at Capps (who blew his first save in 16 tries this season) in a move that could have been perceived as taunting the opposing pitcher. “ It was the top of the ninth inning, so Pittsburgh Pirate closer Matt Capps did not get a chance to maybe show his own emotions by maybe drilling Dukes in the back in his next at bat. So I guess Dukes still has the competitive bad boy lurking in his huge frame.
Anyone who has lived in Tampa Bay for awhile knows the adventures of Dukes and his children’s mothers. I even know of a website host who was thinking of making up 25 t-shirts with the words, “Elijah is my Daddy” and sit them within sight of the outfield rail for the game. But he had a bit of conscience knowing it was not in the best interest of him or Dukes to prey on the subject. But I do have to say, I would have laughed for a while if I saw those shirts on some kids under 10 years old.
I mean I must have been so involved in the Rays 2008 playoff run that I missed this entire incident in Shea Stadium between the fans and pitcher Mike Pelfrey during September 2008. Dukes barked at New York Mets starter Mike Pelfrey following an inside pitch in the fourth inning – one at-bat after he belted a mammoth home run. Dukes also incited already-booing fans behind the Nationals dugout in the ninth with a series of arm gestures. And of course, after the game a Washington PR staffer stood guard to keep away the media as Dukes did not comment after the game.
Actions and reactions by him are going to be judged the rest of his career and how he responds to them will be key for him. Positive actions and comments will help bury his past and have him feeling more secure about playing in places like Tropicana Field in the future. It had to be rough for him this weekend. This is his home turf, the place where he made memories both as a Rays and as a high school star.
But right now everything he has done good in the world is overshadowed by comments and actions in his past. Hopefully the personal assistant that is always by his side has been a huge influence on him to promote a better image and man to the fans. So far I am seeing a different Dukes, but that could maybe be a mirror reflection of what I want to see in him too. You want misguided souls to find their ways, maybe Dukes has finally been able to come home and feel relaxed, even with the chants in the stands.