Paul Anthony Lo Duca (born April 12, 1972 in Brooklyn, New York) is a Major League Baseball catcher who is currently a free agent. Previously, Lo Duca played for the Los Angeles Dodgers (1998-2004), Florida Marlins (2004-2005, 2008), New York Mets (2006-2007), and Washington Nationals (2008). He currently is an analyst for the TVG Network analyzing horse races.
Paul Lo Duca walked on to the baseball team at Glendale Community College (AZ) after he was not recruited or drafted out of high school. He hit .449 and .461 in his two years at the community college before transferring to Arizona State University. In 1993, the one year he played at ASU, Lo Duca was named The Sporting News Player of the Year, setting school records with a .446 batting average and 129 hits. He was also named a finalist for the prestigious Golden Spikes Award and his 37-game hitting streak is the second longest in school history.
Despite his college success, Lo Duca spent many years in the minor leagues, after being drafted in the 25th round of the 1993 Amateur Draft, finally achieving a breakthrough year with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2001 at age 29. Lo Duca drew comparisons to Dodgers predecessors Mike Scioscia and Mike Piazza -- all three were capable and popular everyday catchers who were homegrown through the Dodgers' organization, and all three are of Italian-American ancestry. On the other hand, Lo Duca's primary strength is as a contact hitter, like Scioscia, but unlike the power-hitting Piazza. Lo Duca would forge another connection with Piazza in being traded away (to the Marlins, and eventually to the Mets) in two of the Dodgers' most unpopular trades in recent memory. Lo Duca still receives a warm response from fans whenever he visits Dodger Stadium.
Since becoming an everyday big league player, Lo Duca has logged some of the best statistics for catchers and been named to four All-Star Games. In 2002, he was one of the best contact hitters in the majors – only Jason Kendall struck out less often and no one had a better percentage of swings and misses. In 2003, Lo Duca's 25-game hitting streak was the second longest in Los Angeles Dodgers history and, defensively, he ranked first in the National League in throwing out baserunners trying to steal. In 2004, he led National League catchers in RBI despite a mid-season trade to the Marlins. In the field in 2004, he allowed 93 stolen bases, more than any other catcher in major league baseball. He was traded from Los Angeles along with Juan Encarnacion and Guillermo Mota to the Marlins for Hee Seop Choi, Brad Penny, and minor league pitching prospect Bill Murphy at the 2004 trading deadline and was traded to the Mets for two minor league prospects, pitcher Gaby Hernandez and outfielder Dante Brinkley, as part of a Marlins "market correction" where most of their large salaries were traded away after the 2005 season.
Lo Duca was a member of the 2006 All-Star Team, led the Mets to a 97-65 record, and led the Mets into the postseason (his first playoff experience). Lo Duca was highly successful in 2006, hitting .318, his highest since 2001. He also had a .355 on-base percentage, a career high.
Lo Duca collected his 1,000th career hit on May 30, 2007, off Barry Zito in the 7th inning in the Mets game against the San Francisco Giants, but it was a down year for him as his batting average fell 48 points, to .272, and he played only 119 games after making a trip to the disabled list in August.
After the 2007 season, Lo Duca agreed to a $5 million, one-year deal with the Washington Nationals on December 10. He was released by the Nationals on July 31, 2008 and On August 8, he signed a minor league deal to return to the Florida Marlins organization. LoDuca was called up on August 16.
He became a free agent after the 2008 season and remains unsigned.
On December 13, 2007, Lo Duca was named in the Mitchell Report in his connection with human growth hormone (HGH). Lo Duca allegedly received the HGH from former clubhouse attendant and known steroids dealer Kirk Radomski, who produced to Mitchell three checks from Lo Duca in the amount of $3200. Federal investigators also seized handwritten notes from Lo Duca to Radomski during a search of Radomski's house. The report also claims that Lo Duca introduced several other baseball players to Radomski, including Adam Riggs, Kevin Brown, Eric Gagné, and Matt Herges.
The Mitchell Report also says that Dodgers were concerned that Lo Duca had stopped taking steroids. The notes of the October 2003 meeting say:
|“||Steroids aren’t being used anymore on him. Big part of this. Might have some value to trade . . . Florida might have interest. . . . Got off the steroids . . . Took away a lot of hard line drives. . . . Can get comparable value back would consider trading. . . . If you do trade him, will get back on the stuff and try to show you he can have a good year. That’s his makeup. Comes to play. Last year of contract, playing for 05. ||”|
Six months later the Dodgers traded Lo Duca to the Florida Marlins. Mitchell does not identify the Dodgers officials involved, nor if other players were traded because they stopped taking steroids.
Lo Duca was born in Brooklyn, New York, but raised in Glendale, Arizona (western suburb of Phoenix) and attended Glendale Apollo High School. On August 7, 2006, the New York media leaked a story about going through divorce suit with his wife, Sonia (Flores) Lo Duca, a former Playboy model. The leak by the New York Post led Lo Duca to threaten to stop giving interviews to the media. Lo Duca had been "one of the most helpful and available players in the Mets clubhouse," and has since resumed giving interviews, as long as they pertain to baseball. Lo Duca has a daughter Bella Lucia with his estranged wife.
- ↑ Paul Lo Duca: The Long Road Home
- ↑ Paul Lo Duca: Biography and Career Highlights
- ↑ Marlins bringing back catcher Lo Duca
- ↑ Marlins promote Lo Duca from Minors
- ↑ Shaikin, Bill (2008-02-17). Former Dodger Lo Duca, cited in steroids probe, apologizes for 'mistakes in judgment'. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved on 2009-05-06.
- ↑ Mitchell Report (PDF) 209. Retrieved on 2007-12-31.
- ↑ Lo Duca's Wife Files for Divorce (New York Post)
- ↑ Lo Duca stops talking to the media
- ↑ Sonia Flores Bio. IMDB. Retrieved on 2008-01-15.