Don't Believe 'Em

When they tell you that you’ll never get over, just tell them they’re number one. You’re a champion.

Coming out of high school, everyone has a ton of pressure on their shoulders. Are you ready to live on your own? Is this college really the right fit for you? But what if you’re drafted top-10 in the MLB Draft? There’s always going to be pressure, but in the words of rapper Busta Rhymes, Don’t Believe ‘Em.

The son of a former major leaguer, Delino DeShields Jr. has always been a true athlete. Starting in the fifth grade, he played football, and by the time his junior year rolled around, he was getting recruited to play college football. But that wasn’t his future. Yes, head coaches across the South were drooling over his speed and athleticism, but DeShields’ future was brightest where his father made a living: on the diamond.

Astros fans will be looking forward to seeing this guy playing in Houston pretty soon

Astros fans will be looking forward to seeing this guy playing in Houston pretty soon

It wasn’t actually until about two years ago that Delino started to make baseball a priority. Football was his number one sport, but baseball was always there in the spring. A running back in the fall, his speed translated immediately to baseball–and the scouts noticed. So much so, that the Astros snatched him up in the top 10 of the draft.

Look, even if a (hater) try to pop me
I’m so blessed – do anything that you could do to stop me
Now I’m climbin’ up the ladder and I’m jumpin’ at the top
You might wanna call me Rocky

Don’t let his 5’9″ stature fool you, Delino DeShields is one tough guy. He boasts a 4.2 40 yard dash time and can bench an impressive 300 lbs along with squat 565, but those are just numbers. Delino can flat out play.

DeShields’ biggest asset going forward is clearly his speed. No matter if he plays at second or shifts to center field, it will allow him to be a fantastic defender, even if he doesn’t have the greatest arm strength. His speed will come even more to his advantage at the plate, where he’s able to stretch singles into doubles and doubles into triples.

Months before the June 2010 draft, there was plenty of speculation as to where he would fall in the draft; most experts had DeShields as a mid- to late-first rounder. But the closer and closer June came, the higher and higher his stock rose. Speed and athleticism aren’t necessarily essential for a major leaguer, but any time a club can find both skills at an elite level in an 17-year old, it’s hard to pass up.

Any situation where you might get fed up
Gotta stay focused, homie keep your head up
It don’t really matter what the next one is doin
Homie gotta handle your business and then you better step up

Growing up around a baseball culture with his dad, a 13-year veteran, athletics was always prevalent in Lino’s life from a young age. Delino Sr. always had advice for his son, but one piece of advice stuck with Delino Jr:

“Even though I never really started taking baseball seriously until two years ago,” recounts DeShields, “he always just told me to focus and not let outside distractions affect my performance on the field. Always keep your head up.”

Athleticism translates well between sports, but baseball can be a game of details more than any other sport. It takes time to learn the proper mechanics and gameplay of fielding, and there’s no feat more difficult in sports than hitting a 90+ mph fastball. Since he is still relatively new to being a full-time ballplayer, focus will be absolutely key for Lino’s success. It’s more than clear that he has elite talents, but the more he can focus on his craft to become a complete player, the sooner he can work his way up through the Astros’ system to Houston.

Live to the fullest for the dream you’re pursuin’
Ain’t nothin’ in the work gon’ really stop what you’re doin’
Go hard no matter what they be sayin’
(Brother) don’t quit cause you know we gotta keep it movin’

After being selected eighth overall, the inevitable question rose about DeShields’ future: sign with the ‘Stros or play at LSU? Obviously, the choice was a difficult one, but LSU wouldn’t let Delino play both baseball and football. Additionally, LSU only offered him an 85% scholarship since they were wary of his strong interest in playing professional baseball. In the end, the promise of a future at Houston’s Minute Maid Field and $2.15 million beckoned.

“(The decision) was hard, but who can turn down that kind of money coming out of high school?” says DeShields. “The way I look at it, I’ve been blessed with this talent and my dream is to play professional baseball–not college baseball. Even though it would be fun, why turn down the opportunity and spend three years of my life playing college sports when I probably won’t graduate because I would enter the draft my junior. And why not start early and be ahead of the game?”

Take a look and see yourself in me
Cause it’s all about we
Me and you securin’ a win together
So we could be the best that we could ever be

Delino Sr. and Delino Jr.

Delino Sr. and Delino Jr.

One likely reason DeShields went so high in the draft was his pedigree–his dad was the 12th pick in the 1987 MLB draft and stole 463 bases for five teams. The similarities don’t end there though, so its easy to see why the two draw such good comparisons. They both play second base and some outfield, but the bulk of their games revolve around elite speed.

Delino Jr. is a good four inches shorter than his dad, but he’s a lot stronger than his dad ever was. From what most scouts have seen, the younger DeShields will likely have a similar power ceiling to his dad, but he should be a much more potent base stealer. Delino, though, is just 18 years old and has much room to grow and much more to learn.

DeShields will undoubtedly get plenty more advice over the years from his father as he gets closer and closer to making the show. But even more valuable than that, Delino will always have a mentor and a supporter, someone who he can look up to.

Stay up on your grind, be the first one to set it
People try to shut me down, I won’t let it
I’m so stubborn for the success
You know my motto – don’t stop, get it, get it!

There’s a reason Delino DeShields Jr. has made it this far in his young baseball career. Through skill and determination, he rose to the top of many draft boards as a prep player, and now look where he is. In the future, there’s sure to be people who will doubt Delino because of his size, lack of power, or some other nit-picky detail, but this kid is going somewhere special.

Whether his career is as fruitful as his father’s or as exciting as another close comp in Eric Young Jr., you’ll be sure to hear his name again soon. Hey, maybe he’ll fulfill the promise Baseball America bestowed upon him when they dubbed him Top 12 Year Old back in 2005 over the great Bryce Harper.

But in the end, Delino DeShields Jr. is an extraordinarily talented player with a bright future ahead.

When they tell you that you’ll never get over, just tell them they’re number one. You’re a champion.

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