Dion James: Another ballplayer I knew

A few years ago, I worked at an elementary school in Sacramento.  As it was in an upper-middle class neighborhood, not far from the State Capitol, the school attracted the children of the well-to-do: Legislators, attorneys and also C-level local celebrities.  Among this latter crowd was a former Major League Baseball player who I got to know, Dion James.

I actually met James years before when he came to sign autographs for my Little League team.  A Sacramento product and 1980 graduate of C.K. McClatchy High School, where Nick Johnson and Larry Bowa also went, James played in the majors between 1983 and 1996 with four different teams.  His best year came in 1987 with the Atlanta Braves when he hit .312 with 154 hits, six triples, and 10 home runs.  James never became a star, though he was a key reserve in 1995 with the New York Yankees, even meriting a mention in Sports Illustrated.  He visited my Little League practice that year and signed a Japanese card for me from his days with the Chunichi Dragons.

By the time I met James again a decade later, he was a 40-something-year-old father, raising a few sons in Sacramento, including one prodigy.  We talked once or twice at the elementary school I worked at as a recreation aid.  While he waited to pick up his son one time, James told me about his playing days, including his stint in the Japanese League.  Like a lot of players, including Kevin Mitchell and Rob Deer, James went to play in Japan in the wake of the 1994 strike.  Apparently, the Japanese training regimen is no joke.  James told me about having to do exercises in gale-force winds, hunching down to show me how he and other Dragons players scooted into the wind.

Not surprisingly, James only lasted a year in Japan before returning to the majors.

0 thoughts on “Dion James: Another ballplayer I knew”

  1. Thanks for this – for it gives me a little glimpse into what Dion James has been up to since his baseball days. As a teenager growing up in Atlanta in the Eighties, I was somehow fascinated by the Braves – although they were the bottomfeeders of MLB during those years. There was one stretch during my teens when I watched pretty much every miserable Braves game on t.v. – and actually enjoyed it. Maybe part of the reason for my enjoyment of futility were my crushes on such players as Dion and Ron Gant.

    Dion James was as much a part of my teenage years as Forenza, Chinese Bobs, and Al B. Sure – lol. So I guess it’s natural that I would want to “catch up with” a guy who is a fondly nostalgic part of my past. Although it would be nice to have a little more detail on James’ post-baseball life…this is a good start as I search for some kind of recent interview, article, or Myspace page (wish me luck 🙂 ).

    1. One of the things that’s worth mentioning is that James had a son who was an athletic prodigy at the time, either in middle school or high school. I was interested in doing a feature story about it for the Sacramento Bee, where I had a part-time job at the time. I talked to one of the writers over there, though, and the word was that James was extremely private about this. I think James may have told me as much, as well.

      With that being said, thanks so much for reading. I’m going to assume you were a Dale Murphy and Bob Horner fan as well. It must have felt great, too, when the early ’90s rolled around.

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