Tardy Dukes

On Saturday, Elijah Dukes, an outfielder with the Washington Nationals, showed up late for work.

The ballclub fined him five hundred dollars for that offense, which wouldn’t be much of a story, except that Dukes was late because he’d been visiting with the members of the Great Falls Little League. He watched a parade, signed autographs, spoke to the players for about a minute, then bolted for the ballpark.

If you were the guy running the Great Falls Little League, and you had paid Elijah Dukes five hundred dollars to drop by, you might have been disappointed that your guest only spoke for a minute.

On the other hand, maybe not. What advice would he have dispensed? This is the same Elijah Dukes who has been sued successfully for child support by four women. Elijah Dukes once threatened to kill his former wife and sent her a text message featuring the picture of a handgun. He’s also run afoul of the law for such activities as assault, which mostly involved throwing things that weren’t baseballs at teammates, umpires, and women. A few years ago a judge ordered him to supplement his baseball career with attendance at a certified batterers’ program. So maybe even for five hundred dollars you would not want Elijah Dukes addressing your little leaguers for more than a minute.

On the other hand, as Jim Mraz, the president of the Great Falls Little League, said, he was there for those little leaguers. Mr. Mraz organized a fund raiser to pay the five hundred dollar fine.

Why Mr. Dukes, who is being paid nearly half a million dollars this season, should need an additional five hundred from the Great Falls Little League after the five hundred they’ve already paid him would be unclear, except for the four aforementioned successful litigants.

But it’s complicated, isn’t it? A difficult set of circumstances for a little leaguer or anybody else to understand. For his previous trespasses, all of which would seem to be more significant that showing up a little late at the ballpark, the Tampa Bay Rays, his previous employer, briefly exiled Mr. Dukes to a minor league team to straighten out his affairs. No fine was deemed necessary. A skeptic might argue that at some point, somebody in the Rays front office figured out that trading Dukes to the Washington Nationals would be a punishment befitting all manner of crimes past and future, but that would be speculation. In any case, he’s still employed.

“If you can hit, you’ll be fine,” Elijah Dukes, who is hitting about .340, might have told those little leaguers. It would have taken him even less than that minute. Maybe he wouldn’t have been late.

This program aired on April 23, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.


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