Q&A: DeShields playing a new tune

Astros' No. 5 prospect busts out with 101 stolen bases in 2012

By Robert Emrich / Special to MLB.com | December 18, 2012 3:10 PM

Entering 2012, Delino DeShields was probably best known for being the son of a former Major Leaguer. After 2012, he's made a name for himself.

Coming off a disappointing full-season debut in '11, DeShields opened '12 repeating the Class A South Atlantic League in Lexington. After a strong start there, batting .298 with 10 homers and 83 stolen bases in 111 games, the Georgia native moved up to the Class A Advanced California League and posted a .718 OPS over his final 24 games with Lancaster.

DeShields, who was a first-round pick like his father, was just getting warmed up. He batted .318 and led the California League with 14 hits and 11 runs in the playoffs, earning MVP honors for the finals.

Overall, the 20-year-old second baseman batted .287 with 101 stolen bases, joining Billy Hamilton in the century club. It was a refreshing season for DeShields, who was more than happy to talk about it.

MiLB.com: After struggling in 2011, how nice was it to have the success you did in 2012?

Delino DeShields: It was real nice. I mean I know there's a lot of people that doubted me and said that I was this and that and everything, but they didn't know what was going on with me or my organization or with what I was trying to accomplish. This past year I showed everybody the real me, and that I'm for real and I'm not just out there playing. The success was awesome. I wasn't really expecting that kind of success right away because I was still in the process of learning and transitioning from center field to second. Everything just kind of worked out. I've always been able to do the things that I did I just had to put it together, things were just clicking for me this year.

MiLB.com: You mentioned the defensive transition, how is that going?

DeShields: It's good. A lot of people have said that they haven't seen somebody make that kind of transition as fast I did and as well as I did. I put a lot of work into it because I wanted to be the best at it. I did early work, extra work, just everything I could do so I could help my team in the future. It's going really well, I'm still learning a lot, but I've definitely come a long way.

MiLB.com: Both you and your father were selected in the first round, how proud are you of that legacy?

DeShields: Real proud of it. To be able to be a part of that. I don't know if we are the only ones, but regardless that's pretty cool to see me and my dad in that category. I didn't really think much of it at first, but looking at it now it's pretty cool.

MiLB.com: What is it like to have a dad who both played in the Majors and has managed in the Minors?

DeShields: He's definitely helped me along the way. When he was on the road when I was little, he was never there to help me with the mental and physical things. So he taught me at a young age that I needed to make my own adjustments and do stuff on my own. When I was younger, I faced adversity really well. If I was struggling, I would always try to fix it on my own to make it better.

He's definitely a great resource. He's had 13 years experience in the big leagues. I got to be around the clubhouse, I got to experience that and a lot of guys haven't had that. He's been a great help, he's been there since Day 1.

MiLB.com: You must have met a long of interesting players in the clubhouse. Anyone stand out?

DeShields: Mark McGwire, Albert Belle, Sammy Sosa, Fred McGriff, Ron Gant, Marquis Grissom and Cal Ripken. It was fun. When I was little, I didn't pay too much attention to what was going on and who they were. I knew who they were, of course, but I was just happy to be in the clubhouse with any of them -- being a little kid and being with a big league player. It's awesome. Now I'm like, 'Wow, my dad played with so-and-so.' When I was little, it didn't really process who they were. It's pretty cool honestly, there's some Hall of Famers in there and I got the chance to be around them and watch them play. Not a lot of people can say that.

MiLB.com: You and Billy Hamilton both stole over 100 bases this year, the first time that has happened since 1983. Do you feel like maybe there's a change in baseball, moving a bit away from the longball and more toward speedy guys?

DeShields: I don't really know. Honestly, Billy and I and everybody else, we're just blessed to be playing the game. Shoot, we just went out there and did what we do best -- run. I think it's kind of the same, but speed is being more implemented into the game of baseball. People are starting to have that. Instead of just power, they're having both tools. They can run and hit for power.

MiLB.com: Which is more exciting, stealing a base or hitting a home run?

DeShields: Hitting home runs are fun. I hit a lot of homers when I was little and I stole a lot of bases when I was younger. Hitting home runs for me now is a little more challenging, so is stealing bases. I like exciting the crowd. If I get on base whether it's a walk or whatever and have the crowd rise up and cheering, that's exciting for me because they're into the game. Everybody's focused on me, excited for me. It's chaos out there. Anybody would say hitting a home run is awesome. It's hard to do. I like being exciting. I'm going to have to go with stealing bags.

MiLB.com: What do you do to unwind in the offseason?

DeShields: When the season is over with, I come home and I eat some home-cooked meals from Mom and Grandma and just take a break from baseball. I'm learning how to play the guitar so I'm in the process of that. I think it would be good for me during the season, to take my mind off of baseball. I like to learn, it's a great learning thing. I'm working out and getting ready for Spring Training. That's really all my time off consists of. Just hanging out, just sitting down and resting.

Everybody will tell you playing every day for eight, nine months out of the year, yeah, you're ready to go home. But then you sit around for a month or two months, it's kind of boring. I want to go back and play right now. I've been sitting around for a long time. I know I'm getting better and doing what I'm doing working out and stuff. I'm not really rushing it, I'm out here kicking it and relaxing.

MiLB.com: What made you pick up the guitar?

DeShields: I really don't know. My little brother, he taught himself how to play the piano, and he's really good. I came home after my second year and I was in the basement of our house and I was like who's that playing piano and it was my little brother. I was like 'Wow, that's crazy' that he learned it that fast, no lessons or anything. He kind of inspired me a little bit, because I was like if he can do it, I can do it.

I just picked up the guitar. I kind of like country music -- actually I do like country music, I'm not going to say kind of, I'm very well-rounded with my music. I just really like how the guitar sounds. It really got me when I listen to country music. What got me into was mostly my little brother. I didn't know Bernie Williams played, that was pretty cool. If he can do it, I can do it too.

MiLB.com: Do you think you'll bring the guitar when you head back to baseball?

DeShields: Probably. Baseball can be kind of stressful sometimes and having something to get your mind off of it is a pretty good tool. I think everybody should do something or get a video game or something to get your mind off it. Everybody struggles and if you go home and think about it, it's going to be a very long year. If you can get your mind off it, you're good to go. It's part of the reason I started playing.

MiLB.com: You talked about getting ready for the season. What are you doing to prepare?

DeShields: Working on my strength and my flexibility in my legs and my arms. I'm in the cage every day, throwing every day, trying to get my arms stronger, trying to get faster and be a better all-around ballplayer for wherever I go next year. Staying healthy starts in the offseason. Getting your body together and all that stuff. Just a bunch of different stuff. I'm running a lot too and working on my speed and agility. You might be like, 'Why are you working on your speed,' but you've got to maintain it or you do not get better at it. I always try to get better at every aspect of my game.

MiLB.com: Who's the toughest pitcher you've faced?

DeShields: There's been a couple. There's this kid, Jose Fernandez, plays with the Marlins. He was pretty tough to hit. There's this other guy, [Carson Smith], a closer in the California League for the Mariners. He was disgusting. I'll never forget my first at-bat against him. Everybody was like, 'He's tough to hit' and I was like, 'I got this.' And then I struck out. I got back to the dugout and I was like, 'Y'all was right.' We got to him in the second round of the playoffs, which was a good feeling. He was killing us all season, but we finally got a hold of him at the right time. Those two guys they are probably the toughest pitchers I faced all year.

MiLB.com: You were the California League Championship Series MVP, how exciting was that postseason experience?

DeShields: It was awesome. I never won anything like that in my entire life. I won tournaments growing up, but winning on that stage, I never won a state championship in football or baseball. To actually win a league championship, to come that far and win, it feels good, like all of the work paid off. I got called up in August ... [and] when I got up there, we all just all clicked together and made the playoff push.

The last out I didn't know how to react. I was like, 'Wow this is crazy.' We just won a championship. Then MVP on top of that was even more crazy, because I was out there trying to help my team win, and on top of that, I get an MVP trophy. That experience was something I'll never forget.

MiLB.com: You mentioned football, were you a big high school football player?

DeShields: I played from fifth grade until my freshman year and I stopped to focus on playing baseball. I was going to stop playing football in general. My junior year, some of the guys were like, 'We really want you to play this year,' and I was like, 'I don't know, I don't really want to play anymore, I just want to do my baseball thing.' I was beginning to realize how good I was at baseball, I didn't even want to mess with anything else.

They convinced me to go on the football field again. I was on varsity and ... I really liked playing football. I liked it before, but when I played my junior year, I wasn't expecting to get any attention. I wasn't expecting to go to college and play football and then people started coming to the games and making me offers. So I kind of went with it and pursued it. For a minute, I didn't know what I want to do. I didn't want to play in the NFL, but I just wanted to go to college and experience the atmosphere of college football. At the end of the day, I was like why waste my time when I can purse my dream. So I just shut it down and started playing ball.

MiLB.com: Was there ever a time you felt like you should have done that instead?

DeShields: Never has there been a time where I felt like that. I always feel like everything happens for a reason and I made the right choice. Do I miss it? Yeah. But I wouldn't trade what I'm doing now for college football. Baseball is what I've been wanting to do, so I don't I regret anything.

MiLB.com: What is something about yourself that would surprise most people?

DeShields: I really like to draw. I was kind of like a little artist when I was growing up. I used to sing a little bit. I was in the choir at school, nothing too serious. I wasn't trying to pursue a music career.

Robert Emrich is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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