By Melissa Verge
Canadian Baseball Network
It’s game time at Rogers Centre.
O’Canada has been sung, popcorn has been purchased, and fans are ready to take in a Sunday afternoon Toronto Blue Jays vs. Texas Rangers series finale.
Inside the lower levels of the Rogers Centre, Delino DeShields has removed his black and white adidas flip flops in the Blue Jays visitor’s clubhouse, and replaced them with sliver cleats. He likes to be different, and those silver cleats he’s sporting on the field that can be seen from all the way up in the press box are one of the ways he shows that.
His red and blue socks are pulled up high with the letter “T” on the back. He’s batting .297 so far this season in 74 plate appearances for the Texas Rangers as their leadoff hitter and starting centre fielder.
It’s game No. 29 of 162, and DeShields is ready to go.
This is the routine. More specifically, baseball is the routine. The 25-year-old has been in the majors since 2015, and he’s played and watched a lot of baseball long before that. DeShields grew up in an athletic family, with a dad (Delino DeShields Sr.) who played in the Major Leagues for 13 years, and a sister who is a talented basketball athlete.
The younger Delino has memories of his Dad playing mostly in Chicago for the White Sox back in 2001 and 2002 when he would have been nine and ten years old. Although his father had tremendous talent and success in the sport, it was his decision to pursue baseball he said, with no pressure from his family.
“Baseball was kind of something that was in my heart, and I loved it for a very long time,” he said. “You never want to do something that you don’t love, so that’s why I’m here.”
It was that passion that had him wanting to come back to the game right after he took a 90-mph ball to the face in 2014 when he was a prospect in the organization. The aftermath? The right side of his face was so swollen it looked like a partially inflated balloon.
“I wanted to play like two days after [but] I couldn’t,” he said.
Mentally DeShields knew the numbers were on his side, so he wasn’t really concerned about the same thing happening again.
“I mean you get hit in the face one time, the chance of it happening again are very, very, very slim, so I just told myself that it's not going to happen again, there’s no way it could happen, and so far, so good,” he said.
Injuries are a part of the game that affect a player both physically and mentally, and DeShields has already had to overcome an injury this season after coming back from a broken left hamate bone he suffered March 31.
That mental side of the game is something that DeShields enjoys, and one of the things that he thinks separates players at the Major League level.
“At a young age you just go out there and you play, but the things that separates guys now is the mental part of it,” he said. “It’s part of the game that people take for granted and if you take it for granted you won’t be here for very long.”
So far DeShields has been here for three full seasons going on his fourth. Baseball is part of the routine for him, it always has been, and this beautiful April 29 at Rogers Centre where he’s leading off for the Rangers is just continuing it.