Paul Lo Duca

This article was written by Steve Sisto

Paul Lo Duca (TRADING CARD DB)Four-time All-Star Paul Lo Duca was a consistently productive hitter and reliable defensive catcher over parts of 11 seasons (1998 through 2008) with the Dodgers, Marlins, Mets, and Nationals. He caught 932 games and produced a lifetime .286 batting average, hitting as many as 25 homers in a single year.

Paul Anthony Lo Duca Jr. was born April 12, 1972, in Brooklyn, New York, to Paul, Sr. and Lucia (Buovolo) Lo Duca.12 The family moved to Arizona when he was two, and he spent his childhood working in his father’s bars alongside his older brothers, Frank (1962-2019) and Anthony (b. 1966).3 His mother, known as Luci, practiced baseball with her sons by tossing pinto beans for them to hit. The beans hurt when they were hit back at her, so she wore large sunglasses and a fur coat for protection.4

Lo Duca attended Apollo High School in Glendale where he excelled, being named Co-Player of the Year in 1990.5 He then earned All-American honors twice at Glendale Community College, leading to a partial scholarship from Arizona State University.6 “We couldn’t really afford it, but I knew my chances of playing pro ball were gone if I didn’t go,” Lo Duca said. “We found a way to do it.”7 In 1993, he hit .446 with 14 home runs and 88 RBIs for the Sun Devils.8

That June, Lo Duca was selected in the 25th round (690th overall) of the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers.9 The 5-foot-10, 193-pounder signed a month later for $28,000.10 Assigned to the advanced Class A Vero Beach Dodgers of the Florida State League, he hit .313 with 13 RBIs in 39 games.

Lo Duca spent 1994 with the Dodgers’ other advanced Class A affiliate, the Bakersfield Dodgers of the California League. With Ken Huckaby doing the bulk of the catching, he mostly played first base and emerged as a strong offensive player, leading the team in batting (.310), RBIs (68) and doubles (32). His 141 hits were second only to Miguel Cairo’s 155. That earned him a promotion to the San Antonio Missions in 1995, but he regressed in the Double-A Texas League, hitting only .246 with eight RBIs in 61 games. Sent back to Vero Beach for 1996, he led the team in batting (.305), on-base percentage (.400), RBIs (66) and doubles (22).

In October, Lo Duca’s 52-year-old mother passed away from ovarian cancer.11 Before she died, Lo Duca planned on telling the Dodgers that he would not play in the Arizona Fall League, but Luci would not hear of it.12 “She said to me, ‘When I pass away, I want you to come to my funeral and then I want you to play the next day,’” Lo Duca said. “I said, ‘I’m not going to do that.’ And she made me promise. So, I did.”13

“Paulie and his mother had a special bond,” said Lo Duca’s father. “I was at a time in my life when I was working all the time. Luci was the one who was doing everything with the boys, and Paulie was her youngest. They were very close.”14 In honor of his mother, Lo Duca drew an “LL” and a cross in the dirt behind home plate before every game he played throughout the rest of his career.15 Later he said, “I wish my mother hadn’t passed away before I made it to the major leagues. She was my hero, a big part of my life. Always taking me to games and the cage when I was little. Big baseball fan. She died two years before I made it. I wish she could have seen it.”16

Lo Duca received another chance with San Antonio in 1997 and showed what he was capable of offensively, hitting .327 with 69 RBIs. Behind the dish, he posted a .990 fielding percentage and caught 46 percent of opposing base-stealers. Starting 1998 with the Albuquerque Dukes in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, he was called up to the majors on June 20 after pitcher Ramon Martinez went on the 15-day disabled list.17 Lo Duca joined the team in Colorado during the middle of a road trip and debuted the following day, going 1-for-2 with an RBI in the Dodgers’ 11-6 loss to the Rockies, his first hit coming off pitcher Bobby Jones. That was the only game he played before being optioned back to Albuquerque two weeks later.18 He finished the season hitting .319 with 30 doubles in 126 games for the Dukes. In September, he returned to the big leagues and went 3-for-12 in five games.

Lo Duca started the 1999 season in the majors backing up Todd Hundley. He went only 2-for-36 in 14 games, however, and was sent back to Albuquerque on May 19 in favor of catching prospect Angel Pena.19 After Pena struggled throughout the summer, they switched places again on August 2 and Lo Duca returned to the Dodgers.20 He finished strong, hitting .339 with 11 RBIs in 22 games down the stretch, including his first three big league homers.

Despite hitting a team-high .375 during spring training 2000, Lo Duca was sent down to Albuquerque.21 He briefly returned to the majors on June 1 when Hundley went on the disabled list, and batted .346 in nine games before he was optioned back to Albuquerque when Hundley returned, his fourth demotion in three seasons.2223 He was called up again in July for eight games, only to be sent down again two weeks later. Lo Duca continued to produce in the minors, slashing .351/.421/.513 with 54 RBIs in 78 games. When rosters expanded in September, he rejoined the Dodgers.24 Overall, he hit .246 with two homers in 34 major league contests in 2000. He was more impressive defensively, throwing out 53 percent of base stealers, much better than Hundley’s 24-percent.25

On November 2, 2000, Lo Duca married model Sonia Flores in Las Vegas.26 Also that offseason, the Dodgers let Hundley leave as a free agent, meaning the team’s starting catcher spot was up for grabs. The expectation was for Lo Duca, who signed a one-year deal for $230,000 in March, to handle the bulk of the catching duties with 36-year-old veteran Chad Kreuter serving as the secondary catcher.27, 28 “I know there are still a lot of people I have to prove wrong,” Lo Duca said. “But that doesn’t bother me because I’ve been doing that my whole career.”29

He got off to a fast start in 2001, hitting .368 with a 1.032 OPS in April, but his season hit a roadblock when he strained his left hamstring and oblique at the end of April.30 He returned to the lineup three weeks later and enjoyed one of the best games of his career in his seventh game back, tying a Dodgers’ record with six hits. Lo Duca’s 6-for-6 night included a three-run home run and a then career-high four RBIs in the Dodgers’ 11-10, 11-inning win over the Rockies. “It’s real gratifying,” Lo Duca said. “It’s been a long haul and [manager Jim] Tracy’s given me the chance to play every day and that’s all I can ask for. It’s unbelievable to have 30,000 people screaming for you out there. It’s something I’ve waited for my whole life.”31

His bat stayed hot. At the All-Star break, Lo Duca had 14 homers, 45 RBIs and a team-high .346 batting average. He was also starting to receive recognition for his defense. Tracy said, “Mentally, he understands the process of what goes on 60 feet, 6 inches away, how to handle a staff and what we’re trying to do against an opposing team’s running game. There’s an awful lot of good about Paul Lo Duca.”32

Lo Duca’s average never fell below .317 the rest of the season, and he finished at a team-leading .320. His 25 home runs and 90 RBIs would be the highest numbers of his career. That offseason, Los Angeles rewarded him with a three-year contract worth $7.25 million.33 “This is my first spring where I won’t be fighting for a job, where I know I’m going to be here, and that’s made it a lot more relaxed of an atmosphere,” Lo Duca said. “I’m not going to try to do anything more than last year. I’m going to take the same approach… There will be more pressure, but I’m about it the same way.”34 “When you look at Lo Duca you see the pride of the organization, the history of the franchise, all in one man,” said hitting coach Jack Clark.35

Lo Duca had a strong first half in 2002, leading his team with a .326 average and 23 doubles as the Dodgers soared 20 games over .500 and led the NL West by 2 ½ games at the All-Star break. However, Lo Duca faltered in the second half, including a 4-for-36 stretch in early August that dropped his average below .300. “I’m not getting the job done,” he said. “That’s the bottom line. I’m not pressing. Things just aren’t going well for me right now. I’m not swinging the bat like I’m capable of, and when I hit the ball hard, they’re not falling in.”36 He rebounded to finish strong, with a team-high 38 doubles and a career-high 163 hits, which he would match in 2006. Defensively, he led the majors with 76 assists, and tied Jorge Posada with 965 putouts. Despite winning 92 games, the Dodgers finished third and missed the playoffs.

After playing through pain most of the year, Lo Duca visited a specialist that offseason and learned that he had a partially torn ligament in his groin.37 “I knew it was bothering him,” Dodgers pitcher Paul Quantrill said. “Dukey’s a tough guy, he battles through. He gets beat up more than any catcher I’ve ever seen. We call him the human pin cushion. He’s as tough as they come.”38

The Dodgers were expected to have another strong year in 2003 and compete for the division title. Lo Duca was optimistic about their chances: “This has been building the last couple of years, to where we feel we’re one of those teams that should win. We don’t look at anything less as being acceptable with the talent and focus we have. We’d be lying if we said there wasn’t a strong feeling here about getting this club back to where it used to be in L.A. and doing it now.”39 He struggled a bit out of the gate, enduring a 3-for-37 slump that left his average at .247 on April 27. “All of us are trying too hard,” he said. “We’re just trying to do too much.”40

He soon turned things around, beginning a 25-game hitting streak on May 17, hitting .422 with four home runs over that span. In July, he went 1-for-2 in his first All-Star Game, at U.S. Cellular Field (now Guaranteed Rate Field) in Chicago. He finished the year batting .273 with 34 doubles and 52 RBIs, but enjoyed his best defensive season. As measured by WAR, Lo Duca was the majors’ best defensive catcher in 2003. The Dodgers went 85-77 and finished 15.5 games behind the Giants.

Prior to 2004, Lo Duca made some lifestyle changes to improve his health and durability, including adding 20 pounds of muscle and hiring a nutritionist to help him eat better. He also gave up caffeine.41 “It’s hard,” he said. “I like to have one here and there. But now I have caffeine-free Diet Coke. But it was tough. It took me two weeks to get my sleep pattern back. … It’s tough to eat right through the season because you’re on the road so much. These [clubhouses] are basically 7-Eleven’s in there, so I definitely tried to take that approach.”42

He again believed that the Dodgers had what it took to make a good run. “There’s a lot of confidence and togetherness in this clubhouse, and I love it. Whether it’s arrogance or confidence, whatever you want to call it, it’s good right now.”43 He got off to an excellent start, batting .400 through May 1 and .313 in the first half with 43 RBIs. A skilled contact hitter, his strikeout rate was only 7 percent. He went to a second consecutive All-Star Game. Just before the July 31 trade deadline, Lo Duca, Guillermo Mota and Juan Encarnacion were dealt to the Florida Marlins for Brad Penny, Hee Seop Choi, and minor leaguer Bill Murphy.44 “You know it might happen, but I’ve always dreamt about being a Dodger for my whole life,” Lo Duca said following the trade. “It’s tough because of the people you meet in the Dodger family. You make so many friends, and the fans, that’s the toughest part.”45

On July 31, Lo Duca flew to Miami to join the Marlins in time for their game against the Montreal Expos that night, but his plane was delayed, and he didn’t reach the stadium until the fifth inning.46 In the sixth, he was given a bat and hit a two-run home run on the first pitch he saw in a Marlins uniform. “That was pretty awesome,” Lo Duca said about his Florida debut. “One of the best feelings I’ve had as a player… I didn’t want to leave L.A., but that was a warm reception here. I wanted to be in the [starting] lineup, but we couldn’t get here in time.”47 In 52 games with the Marlins, Lo Duca hit .258 with 31 RBIs and 27 runs. He missed the postseason again as Florida, the defending the World Series champions, finished third in the NL East with an 83-79 record.

The Marlins and Lo Duca, now 32, agreed on a three-year contract worth $17.8 million.48 “I wanted to stay here if it worked out, which it did,” Lo Duca said. “I’ve had enough time to work with the pitchers and when they signed Carlos [Delgado] it was just topping on the cake. I couldn’t be more happy to be here right now.”49 His wife Sonia also gave birth to their daughter, Bella Lucia, that offseason.50

In 2005, Lo Duca was hitting .283 with 20 RBIs by the end of May, but injuries began taking a toll. He took a foul tip off his left elbow on May 28, and a ball off his right shoulder a week later.51, 52 “I’m just a human contusion right now,” he said.53 After earning his third straight All-Star berth, a strained right hamstring bothered him in August, but he kept his batting average above .300 as late as September 1.54 The Marlins, however, finished third again with a second consecutive 83-79 record. Lo Duca wound up batting .283 with 57 RBIs in 132 games, his lowest number of hits and games in four years. He struck out only 31 times in 445 at bats.

Paul Lo Duca (TRADING CARD DB)In December 2005, as part of a massive unloading of players, the Marlins traded Lo Duca to the New York Mets for minor leaguers Gabriel Hernandez and Dante Brinkley.55 “My uncle [who was born in Brooklyn and raised in Arizona] cried this morning,” Lo Duca said. Everyone is so excited. It’s exciting because my family wanted me to [be traded] to Arizona, but the second-best place was to go to New York.”56

“When Paulie found out he was being traded to the Mets, it was the happiest I’d seen him in a long time,” said his father.57 The Mets also added Carlos Delgado, Billy Wagner, and Xavier Nady to the team. “It would be a disappointment if we don’t win the Eastern Division. I think there’s so much talent in here and if we stay healthy, I think there should be no excuses,” Lo Duca said, ”58 “I told [manager Willie Randolph] wherever he wants to hit me that’s fine. “That’s the attitude I’m taking. I’m the guy that’s going to move guys over, bunt guys over, do whatever it takes.”59

Lo Duca made his presence felt immediately in New York, batting .302 in the first half to earn a fourth straight All-Star selection –but first as a starter– as the Mets built a 12-game division lead. “They talk about five tools in baseball, he’s got that sixth,” Mets third baseman David Wright said about him. “That’s the intangibles. That you can’t teach. He just has a knack for, a nose for, certain situations in the game. And I think that as a player, that’s a huge compliment… He’s a tremendous leader, and on the field, his numbers speak for itself, but off the field, I think he’s just as valuable to his team.”60

“I like laying in the weeds. It’s good,” said Lo Duca. “We’ve got a lot of good ballplayers on this team, and I take pride in that, in getting the job done when I have to in a big situation. So that’s what I pride myself on. So hopefully I can keep ‘em coming.”61 For the fifth year in a row, he caught at least 1,000 innings, hitting better in the second half for the first time, and finished 7th in the NL with a team-best .318. His 39 doubles were a career high. The Mets swept the Dodgers in the NLDS with Lo Duca going 5-for-11 with a double in his first taste of the playoffs. Against the Cardinals in the NLCS, he batted only .207 with three RBIs as the Mets fell in seven games.

Entering the final year of his contract in 2007, Lo Duca made it known that he wanted to stay in New York long-term. “I’m just going to play like it’s another year. I guess I need to have a really good year, right? Obviously, you don’t want to be talking during the season, but whatever happens, happens.”62 He struggled a bit out of the gate, hitting only .237 through April, but improved to .319 by the end of May. The Mets were in first place by 4 1/2 games, but the rest of the season proved to be heartbreaking. Leading by seven games on September 12, New York lost 12 of their last 17 to finish one game behind the Philadelphia Phillies and miss the playoffs. Lo Duca finished with a .272 average, his lowest as a full-time big leaguer. “We didn’t get it done,” he said. “Everybody here is accountable. It’s going to hurt for a while. This hurts almost as much as losing last year and I don’t think it’s really hit me yet. It’s really dumbfounding.”63

In December 2007, Lo Duca was mentioned in former Senator George Mitchell’s report on the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball. The report stated that he had purchased at least six kits of human growth hormone from former Mets clubhouse attendant Kirk Radomski in 2004. “It’s something I’m going to have to deal with,” Lo Duca said. “It’s a mistake I made, and you’re going to have to deal with it for the rest of your life and go on with it.”64

Lo Duca became a free agent and signed a one-year deal with the Washington Nationals worth $5 million in December.65 “I’m out to prove I can still play this game at an All-Star level,” he said. “I’ve got a one-track mind, and that’s all that’s on my mind right now.”66 For the Nationals, Lo Duca split the catching duties with Jesus Flores and Wil Nieves until he was released on July 31 after hitting .230 with 12 RBIs in 46 games. The Marlins picked him up shortly afterwards, and Lo Duca batted .294 in 21 games backing up Matt Treanor. That was the end of his major-league career.

After sitting out 2009, Lo Duca signed as a free agent with the Rockies in 2010 but was released in May after playing only 14 games for their Class AAA Colorado Springs Sky Sox affiliate. In 1,082 major league games, Lo Duca batted .286 with 1,112 hits, including 222 doubles, 80 home runs and 481 RBIs. He struck out only 295 times in 11 seasons, once every 13.2 at-bats, an excellent rate of 7%.

Outside of baseball, horse racing has always been a passion of Lo Duca’s, and he has owned several horses over the course of his life.67 “I love the sport,” Lo Duca said. “I’ve always loved it. It’s just very interesting to me, especially now that I’ve gotten to know horses and how much they’re like humans. Some of them are temperamental, some of them aren’t. They’re all different.”68 Following his retirement from baseball, Lo Duca worked as a horse racing analyst for TVG Network and The New York Racing Association.69 His first marriage ended in divorce in 2006.70 On January 17, 2009, he married again, to Rietsa Lelekakis, at New York City’s Pierre Hotel.71

Despite being a consistently reliable hitter over his career, Lo Duca said multiple times that he was especially proud of his defense: “I take pride in [my defense.] To me, hitting’s a bonus. That’s the way I’ve always looked at it, and I take pride in catching my pitching staff.”72 Former Mets teammate Billy Wagner said, “Paulie competed. He battled every day, and we had some guys who didn’t show up every day. They were satisfied if they got a hit and we lost. Paul was [angry] if he had four hits and we lost. And every one of the pitchers trusted him. He was a big part of what we did [in 2006].”73

Last revised: March 24, 2021



This biography was reviewed by Malcolm Allen and Norman Macht and fact-checked by Mark Sternman.



In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author also consulted



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Full Name

Paul Anthony Lo Duca


April 12, 1972 at Brooklyn, NY (USA)

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