Wednesday, May 23, 2012

An Interview with 2B Delino DeShields, Jr.

Delino DeShields, Jr. was the Astros first round draft pick in 2010 out of Woodward Academy in College Park, Georgia. He is in his third professional season at the ripe old age of 19 and is playing for the Lexington Legends LoA team. He is currently hitting .241/.361/.333 with seven doubles, one triple, two home runs and 15 RBIs, and has walked 28 times while striking out 40 times. He leads the South Atlantic League with 29 stolen bases and is tied for fifth in the league with 33 runs scored. If Delino played in all of the remaining games for Lexington, he is on a pace to steal 95 bases this season. He has been caught once.

When I was in Lexington last month, I saw two Delinos. Off the field, he was quiet, thoughtful and observant, taking in everything around him. On the field, he was still thoughtful and observant, but there was nothing quiet about him. His diving catches on defense and his relentless approach on the basepaths did his talking for him.

Delino DeShields, Jr. April 2012
After stealing second and third

WTH: I know that last season your focus was more on the defensive end and really learning to play second base. By all accounts from your teammates and coaches, your defense is night and day from last season. How do you feel about your progress as a defensive player? What are you still working on in that regard?

DD: I feel like I progressed a lot from when I first started. I've been trying to stay focused, put in the necessary work so that one day I'll be great. I know I still have a long way to go. I still have unmet goals that I've set for myself but if I keep putting in the work I believe that I will get to where I want to be soon enough.

WTH: To what do you attribute your improvement at the plate this season? How would you describe yourself as a hitter? What are you working on?

DD: After last year, I have a better idea of what the level of dedication and commitment to professional ball is about. I know my strengths now and I've dedicated this year to work on my weaknesses at the plate. I would describe myself as a guy who will do anything to get on base. If that means driving the ball gap to gap or laying down a bunt, then that's what I have to do. I have some pop in the bat to knock it out of the park occasionally and if the situation is right I can do my job.

WTH: You were an equally talented football player in high school. Was the decision to pick baseball over football a difficult one?

DD: Not necessarily. Please don't get me wrong, I love football but I had to look at the big picture. I wanted to go to college to play football, however I didn't have plans on playing in the NFL. Going to college to play football would have been more recreational than anything and I didn't the feel the pros outweighed the cons if I went that route. The Big Picture for me has always be about getting to the Big Leagues so it made sense to go ahead and put all my eggs in one basket and get started in pursuing my career. So really, at the end of the day it wasn't a tough decision for me.

WTH: How are you like your father as an athlete/baseball player? How are you different?

DD: Dad and I are similar in a lot of ways. We both were very talented athletes in high school. We both can run and we have similar playing styles. The main difference that I think we have is that I have more 'thunder' than he does at the plate.

WTH: I read an article recently that you had tweeted a link to about the dwindling number of black athletes pursuing baseball. What would you do if you were the Commissioner of Baseball to change that?

BB: I really can't say what I would do if I were the commissioner but as a person and a baseball player who loves this game, if given the opportunity to make it in the Big Leagues, I would try to give young black athletes somewhere where they could play and showcase their talents. Baseball just happens to be one of those sports that can be very expensive, especially when you factor in all the costs that come with traveling on the competitive level. Some people can't afford it and it's not necessarily fair.

WTH: Do you feel added pressure as a first round draft pick?

DD: I did initially, because I was only 17 years old. Now that I'm a little older, there's still pressure, but I've grown to learn that as much as I would like to, I can't possibly please everyone all the time. I just have to play for me and my team. And people just look at numbers, but it's not always about numbers -- it's about the little things that we do to help the team win.

WTH: Can you tell me something about yourself that most people don't know and that might surprise them?

DD: I love playing the guitar. It relaxes me when I'm not playing baseball. Music for me is very therapeutic.

Thanks for your time Delino. Keep stealing those bases and getting that uniform good and dirty!

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