Photos and VideosMore Photos and Videos
NEW YORK - APRIL 26: Elijah Dukes #34 of the Washington Nationals stands in the dugout before their game against the New York Mets on April 26, 2009 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Another rapper, "Fly Eli," struggles to hit it big, working on his music in studios and clubs around Tampa Bay.
But this aspiring hip hop star has already been on top once - as a slugger in Major League Baseball, once heralded as "the Next Big Thing."
The Tampa Tribune tracked down Elijah Dukes, 26, who was drafted by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and then was traded to the Washington Nationals in 2007. Dukes has been out of baseball since last spring, when he said he was forced out of the big leagues for blowing the whistle on player drug use.
Dukes said that marijuana was a popular drug among team members, especially when traveling for road games. "I was going along with it," he told the Tribune. "Peer pressure. You are looking up to guys, and at the same time these guys are saying, 'hit some of this.'"
"Fly Eli" said that like other players, he smoked marijuana before the games. He also said that many players took advantage of the team charter planes to travel with marijuana and cocaine. Dukes said other players would hide the drugs in "their little man purses."
In 2007, Dukes was pulled over with his brother and found to be carrying marijuana. As a result, he was regularly tested, and was offered psychological counseling by the league. In one of these consultations, Westreich said he told league psychiatrist Laurence Westreich about the drug use among MLB players. He said shortly after that, he was released by the Nats. Fly Eli said he was "thrown under the bus."
But a Major League Baseball official said they had never heard Dukes' drug abuse accusations, and had nothing to do with his exit from the baseball. "The allegations made by Mr. Dukes are false," said Rob Manfred, a vice-president of labor relations.
Now, Dukes is busy reinventing himself as a hip-hop artist. When drafted by the Devil Rays, he received a $500,000 signing bonus. That cash, along with millions he made playing baseball is nearly all gone. He has six children with four different women, which has drained a lot of that money. He said he was trying to play baseball for a Venezuelan club, but he said a car accident with a police cruiser derailed that project. His history over the past decade has been checkered. Since 2001, the Tribune reports that Fly Eli has been arrested over 20 times.
All of these tribulations have become material for his musical career. He's got half an album's worth of songs recorded now, and he has started making live appearances around southern Florida.
"Life is our hook," Fly Eli said about his music. "What we see is what you get."