Catching up

Late-bloomer Paul Lo Duca lands on BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot

December 03, 2013
2014 Hall of Fame candidate Paul Lo Duca. (Brad Mangin/NBHOF Library)

Paul Lo Duca didn’t become a regular in the big leagues until he was 29 years old. But he quickly made up for lost time with a string of accolades and All-Star Game appearances. 

Now, Lo Duca is a candidate for the ultimate honor. 

Lo Duca is one of 36 former major leaguers on the 2014 Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot for the Class of 2014 at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. 

BBWAA members who have at least 10 years of tenure with the organization can vote in the election, and the results will be announced Jan. 8. Any candidate who receives at least 75 percent of all BBWAA votes cast will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2014. The Induction Ceremony will be held July 27 in Cooperstown. 

Born April 12, 1972 in Brooklyn, N.Y., Lo Duca’s family moved to Arizona when Paul was a child. Lo Duca was not considered a big league prospect out of high school, but he found success after walking onto the baseball team at Glendale (Ariz.) Community College – hitting better than .400 in his two seasons there. 

Lo Duca then transferred to Arizona State, where he was named the Sporting News’ Player of the Year after posting a .446 batting average that included a 37-game hitting streak. Following the 1993 season at ASU, Lo Duca was selected by the Dodgers in the 25th round of the MLB Draft. 

Lo Duca slowly climbed up the Dodgers’ system, hitting .300 at most of his stops. When Jim Tracy took over as the Dodgers’ new manager in 2001, he named the unproven Lo Duca – who at that point had appeared in just 76 big league games from 1998-2000 – as his starting catcher. 

“He more than paid his dues with all that time in the minors,” Tracy said. 

The move immediately paid dividends as Lo Duca hit .320 with 25 homers and 90 RBI in 125 games, earning enough votes to finish 19th in the National League MVP voting. He became a workhorse behind the plate, appearing in 149 games in 2002 and 147 games in 2003, earning his first All-Star Game berth in the latter season. 

“The guy works like crazy,” said former teammate Eric Karros. “He knows that now that he’s made it, this is no time to start taking it easy.” 

In 2004, Lo Duca was sent to the Marlins as a major piece in a trade that brought Los Angeles pitcher Brad Penny. He returned to the All-Star Game in 2005 while serving as the Marlins’ regular backstop, then was traded to the Mets prior to the 2006 season. 

At 34 years of age in 2006, Lo Duca caught 124 games for a Mets team that came within one game of the World Series. He hit .318 with 39 doubles that season, earning another All-Star Game selection. 

After one more season as the Mets’ starting catcher in 2007, Lo Duca spent his last big league campaign with the Marlins and Nationals in 2008. His final totals: A .286 batting average with 1,112 hits and 222 doubles. Defensively, the durable Lo Duca led the NL in catchers’ putouts, assists and caught stealings in 2002 and 2003. 

Year Age Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG
1998 26 LAD 6 14 14 2 4 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 .286 .286 .357
1999 27 LAD 36 110 95 11 22 1 0 3 11 1 2 10 9 .232 .312 .337
2000 28 LAD 34 75 65 6 16 2 0 2 8 0 2 6 8 .246 .301 .369
2001 29 LAD 125 519 460 71 147 28 0 25 90 2 4 39 30 .320 .374 .543
2002 30 LAD 149 632 580 74 163 38 1 10 64 3 1 34 31 .281 .330 .402
2003 31 LAD 147 630 568 64 155 34 2 7 52 0 2 44 54 .273 .335 .377
2004 32 TOT 143 594 535 68 153 29 2 13 80 4 5 36 49 .286 .338 .421
2004 32 LAD 91 381 349 41 105 18 1 10 49 2 4 22 27 .301 .351 .444
2004 32 FLA 52 213 186 27 48 11 1 3 31 2 1 14 22 .258 .314 .376
2005 33 FLA 132 496 445 45 126 23 1 6 57 4 3 34 31 .283 .334 .380
2006 34 NYM 124 551 512 80 163 39 1 5 49 3 0 24 38 .318 .355 .428
2007 35 NYM 119 488 445 46 121 18 1 9 54 2 0 24 33 .272 .311 .378
2008 36 TOT 67 193 173 16 42 9 0 0 15 1 0 15 11 .243 .321 .295
2008 36 WSN 46 153 139 13 32 7 0 0 12 1 0 9 9 .230 .301 .281
2008 36 FLA 21 40 34 3 10 2 0 0 3 0 0 6 2 .294 .400 .353
11 Yrs 1082 4302 3892 483 1112 222 8 80 481 20 19 266 295 .286 .337 .409

 

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum