League set to pay Dukes' fine

Updated: April 21, 2009, 6:03 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Washington Nationals outfielder Elijah Dukes was fined $500 and benched for being late to Saturday's home game against Florida.

Dukes
Dukes

But he won't pay the fine himself. The Great Falls Little League, where he was speaking prior to the game, says it will pay it for him after a fundraising effort.

"The point is, this guy gave back to our community, and now he's in a hard spot. We need to help him," said Jim Mraz, the Great Falls LL president, according to The Washington Post. "It's not a question of whether this guy can afford the 500 bucks. We're just trying to send a message to our kids: He was here for us. Now we've got to be there for him."

It's not a question of whether this guy can afford the 500 bucks. We're just trying to send a message to our kids: He was here for us. Now we've got to be there for him.

-- Jim Mraz, Great Falls LL president

On Saturday, Nationals acting general manager Mike Rizzo and manager Manny Acta decided to fine and bench Dukes because Dukes was late and the appearance was not sponsored by the Nationals. They warned Dukes that if he was late again, he could be sent to the minor leagues.

"We are going to change the culture here, regardless of how well a guy is playing," Acta said, according to MLB.com. "It was a bizarre situation, because he was doing something that we encourage our players to do. He was out in the community doing something for some Little League program and he just showed up late for work.

"He was very remorseful about it. He felt bad, but we have to lay down the law. Regardless of who is out there, we are still losing ballgames. We have to change the culture somehow."

Dukes, who was paid $500 for his appearance, signed autographs, watched the parade of teams and spoke to the players for about a minute. He then sprinted to his car and headed to the ballpark, the Post reported.

The league was surprised by the fine and benching, and jumped into action with an e-mail campaign. Mraz will present $501 -- $1 for "administrative expenses," according to the Post -- to the Nationals.

Dukes had no comment.

Said Mraz: "You're a little stunned. Like, 'Whoa, wait a minute.' Here's the game of baseball -- it's got steroids hanging over it, all these issues. ... Needless to say the Nats kind of need help with what they're doing. I could see if he was out trying to do something small or private, but he just came into my community and gave us a shot in the arm."