LOVERRO

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - Thom Loverro hosts his weekly pod­cast “Cigars & Curve­balls” Wed­nes­days avail­able on iTunes, Google Play and the re­Volver pod­cast net­work.

who sup­ported me along my ca­reer. Love y’all!”

It made me smile — so I called the 34-year-old for­mer pitcher.

My fond mem­o­ries of Mock — traded to Wash­ing­ton in Au­gust 2006 with Matt Chico for Li­van Her­nan­dez — have noth­ing to do with his pitch­ing. His first start wasn’t mem­o­rable — four runs on seven hits and three walks in 41⁄3 in­nings pitched. And his three-year ca­reer in Wash­ing­ton wasn’t note­wor­thy — in 55 ap­pear­ance, 19 of them starts, Mock, who had good stuff, went 4-13 with a 5.17 ERA and 121 strike­outs in 1352⁄3 in­nings pitched.

No, Gar­rett Mock makes me smile be­cause of what he did for Eli­jah Dukes.

You re­mem­ber Eli­jah Dukes, don’t you? The feared and fright­en­ing fig­ure who ar­rived at spring train­ing with Wash­ing­ton in 2008 af­ter play­ing his way out of Tampa Bay with a long list of trou­bles — in­clud­ing fights with team­mates, club of­fi­cials and um­pires and death threats to his wife — only to be wel­comed by then Na­tion­als gen­eral man­ager and fran­chise gravedig­ger Jim Bow­den in a De­cem­ber 2007 trade.

At the time, Bow­den was as­sem­bling a mo­tor­cy­cle gang, one of the worst ros­ters ever put to­gether in base­ball, a who’s who of trou­ble — Dukes, Last­ings Milledge, Felipe Lopez, Paul LoDuca and Dmitri Young among a team that, in the year Na­tion­als Park opened, lost 102 games.

When Dukes ar­rived in the Na­tion­als club­house at Space Coast Sta­dium — with a spe­cial se­cu­rity guard hired by the team to keep him out of trou­ble — ev­ery­one kept their dis­tance.

Not Gar­rett Mock. He walked over to Duke’s locker, in­tro­duced him­self and shook his hand.

It may seem like a small ges­ture, but be­lieve me, no one was jump­ing at the chance to em­brace Eli­jah Dukes. But this 24-year-old coun­try boy from Hous­ton did, and I never for­got that scene.

“I just re­mem­ber ev­ery­one was sort of stand­ing around there,” Mock said. “It was like a mid­dle school dance. The day I met Eli­jah I just wanted to in­tro­duce my­self and let him know that I loved him and then I was there for him. When we put that uni­form on we’re all on the same team.

“I don’t re­mem­ber the ex­act things that sur­rounded him but there were a lot of things,” Mock said. “I don’t think too many play­ers ever had more raw tal­ent than that guy. I’m thinking, ‘I don’t know a dad gum thing about this guy or what has been re­ported about him. but if we are on the field all that stuff is off to the side. I fig­ured if I go up and in­tro­duce my­self, I’ll let him know who I am as a per­son and hope­fully earn his re­spect, too.”

It wasn’t a life-chang­ing mo­ment for Dukes, who strug­gled with in­juries and per­son­al­ity prob­lems un­til he was re­leased in March 2010 and was soon out of base­ball al­to­gether. And Mock’s ca­reer came to a halt in 2010 when he suf­fered a neck in­jury that re­quired surgery, and though he had stints in the Red Sox, Astros and back in the Di­a­mond­backs or­ga­ni­za­tion, he never reached the ma­jor leagues again.

“It was tough for me to watch base­ball when I got done, but now I’ve been able to watch some games, and I’m root­ing for Wash­ing­ton,” Mock said. “It’s cool to see some of the suc­cess those guys are hav­ing.

“I was in re­hab in Florida and re­mem­ber see­ing Michael Tay­lor there,” Mock said. “He had a cou­ple of bad days in in­struc­tional ball, and I re­mem­ber telling him that he was go­ing to be a big lea­guer some day and make a dif­fer­ence. It’s great now to watch a guy like him suc­ceed.

“There is not a player in base­ball that de­serves more credit than Ryan Zim­mer­man,” Mock said. “He is one of my fa­vorite play­ers of all time. I coach kids now and show high­lights of Zim and tell kids, ‘This is how you’re sup­posed to play base­ball.’

“Mike Rizzo drafted me in 2004 and see­ing what he is do­ing with that team is great,” Mock said. “Rizzo be­lieved in me, and if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t have the mem­o­ries that I’ve got now. If you see Rizzo give him a hug and tell him I’m do­ing great.”

Of course he is.

Mike Rizzo loves his Univer­sity of Hous­ton pitch­ers. Last week the Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als gen­eral man­ager se­lected left-handed pitcher Seth Romero out Hous­ton with his team’s first pick in the 2017 First-Year player draft.

When he was direc­tor of scout­ing for the Ari­zona Di­a­mond­backs in 2004, Rizzo pushed for another pitcher out of Hous­ton — Gar­rett Mock in the third round. Mock makes me smile. On his Face­book page re­cently, Mock posted a note re­mem­ber­ing the first time he took the mound in the ma­jor leagues — for the Na­tion­als on June 8, 2008, against the San Fran­cisco Gi­ants:

“How time flies !!!! 9 years ago to­day I made my ma­jor league de­but for the Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als. I am so I am thank­ful for that sea­son of life and the mem­o­ries. I am also thank­ful for the sea­son of life I am in now. Thanks to those

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