That's Elijah Dukes in court in Florida on Wednesday in an orange jumpsuit, telling a judge he's done with baseball and wants to go to school and get a regular job so he can take care of his kids. Video clip from WTSP in Tampa/St. Pete. Sad, sad stuff.
Life hasn't been kind to Elijah Dukes following his surprising release by the Nationals last spring. After playing out the summer with the independent Atlantic League Newark Bears, Elijah Dukes is once again in trouble for failing to pay child support; arrested on Monday. Dukes appeared in court in Florida on Wednesday; the gut-wrenching proceedings are captured in the video clip above, and captured in words on Tampa Bay.com:
He owes ex-wife NiShea Gilbert $74,000 in child support and alimony. And court records show that as of September, he owed $35,000 to Carla D. Bryant and $34,000 to Porcia Reneal Daniels, also mothers of his children.
"Jesus, I hate this," Dukes said at one point as he put his head on a table and sobbed.
(via TampaBay.com, 11/3/2010)
The Elijah Dukes story is tragic on many levels that we won't rehash here. But after failing to live up to his great potential as a baseball player (see also this piece by Jack Moore of Fangraphs on the lost potential of Elijah Dukes ) Dukes is basically broke, out of work, had his car repossessed (according to the SP Times) and is at best searching for a minor league invite to Spring Training -- if there's a MLB club out there willing to take a chance on him. But given the lack of interest around baseball after being dropped by the Nats last spring, and his baggage, and the fact that Jim Bowden is no longer employed as a general manager by a Major League ballclub, the odds aren't looking good. Chances are, Dukes will never play in the majors again.
It's just an awful story, and the ending doesn't look promising for a 27 year old guy referred to by the woman he owes $74K to as "a huge teddybear" shortly after his release by the Nationals; but apparently a huge, misunderstood, not-well-liked teddybear in the clubhouse. Perhaps NiShea was just hoping to put in good word for her ex-husband in hopes that another ballclub would take a chance on him so those checks would keep coming.
But the news of Dukes' recent troubles dredges up the old question of what REALLY happened last March when Mike Rizzo inexplicably pulled the plug on Elijah Dukes in D.C. Sure, Rizzo cited it as strictly a baseball decision, citing vague performance issues and maybe hinted about clubhouse chemistry...but there must have been something else there.
What really happened?
Regardless, here's hoping that Elijah Dukes can get his life on track...