Sarah's Take: Lo Duca looks great in a Dodger uniform
After spending eight years in the Minor Leagues, Paul Lo Duca has gotten the opportunity to play every day. He has made the most of it. His spirit and ability have made him a fan favorite.
During the Davey Johnson regime Lo Duca didn't get much opportunity to play. Johnson appeared to dislike the young enthusiastic catcher. Some people in the Dodger organization thought Lo Duca was too small to be a Major League catcher, but Lo Duca didn't believe them and refused to quit.
Recently I asked Lo Duca through another writer on the Dodgers' website why he didn't quit. He replied, "A lot of things kept me going, it was more trying to get up here and prove some people wrong that doubted me. My family had a lot to do with me sticking with it, gave me encouragement. The whole point was to get to this goal and get the chance to play everyday because I thought I could do well and prove people wrong."
This motivates him even now, and he says he will never take anything for granted.
Before the season began, many journalists worried about the Dodgers' catching situation, but I never did. Although I didn't see him play much, he impressed me every time I saw him. During the off-season I sometimes wrote the journalists who criticized Lo Duca because I felt he deserved a fair shake in the media. The media has a great influence on fans' thinking and Lo Duca deserved and needed fan support.
This season Paul Lo Duca has been a pleasant surprise for the Dodgers. He has the highest batting average on the Dodgers. Though he had a .300 batting average in seven of eight seasons in the minors, nobody expected he would hit in the .330 area this year. His compact swing does not appear to produce much power, and he never hit many home runs in the minors. However, he has has hit twenty home runs this season. It is incredible. A few weeks ago Lo Duca had an opportunity to have more home runs than strikeouts. That would have been amazing because the last Major Leaguer to do this was George Brett, who is in the Baseball Hall of Fame. I knew Lo Duca could hit Major League pitching, but I never expected him to be an offensive catalyst for the Dodgers.
Lo Duca has been an example for his teammates and the fans in Los Angeles. He never complains about what Jim Tracy has asked him to do. He has batted in seventh position and the fifth position in the lineup. He also has led off when the Dodgers could not find a productive leadoff hitter. He has done an excellent job catching and at first base. His boundless enthusiasm has appeared to encourage his teammates to never give up on a game and always try their best. Nobody will see Lo Duca not run at full speed when he hits a grounder. His presence in the Dodger clubhouse might have been what united the team and made them focus on a common goal, winning their division.
Lo Duca has also helped the Dodgers strengthen their defense. This has enabled them to survive their injuries. In the recent past, the National League ran on the Dodgers all the time. This made the fans angry and distracted the pitchers, causing them to allow more runs. This year Lo Duca has thrown out about 40% of base stealers. He moves like a cat behind the plate, blocking possible wild pitches. To me, having a quality defensive catcher is the main difference between this season and the recent past.
Lo Duca has performed better than I expected. I am so thrilled for him. His enthusiasm and determination have been a major factor in the success of the Dodgers. When he was not named to the National League All-Star team, I was angry, but I realized Bobby Valentine had not seen him play. Though many people think Lo Duca is eligible for the National League Rookie of the Year, he is not. He will not get many votes for the National League Most Valuable Player, but in my opinion he is the Dodgers' MVP. I always will be a fan of his.