Marty Lurie Talks San Francisco Giants Baseball

Interview with Paul Lo Duca

“Paul is a Dodger Through and Through”

ML: Marty Lurie here with Paul Lo Duca of the-I almost said the Brooklyn Dodgers-the Los Angeles Dodgers. I’m thinking about Brooklyn with you because you’re born in Brooklyn and you got the Brooklyn roots. You’re a real Brooklyn kid. Tell me about growing up and learning how to play ball.

PD: I was born in Brooklyn, and I moved out to Arizona when I was real young, and my brothers were more suited to know the streets around Brooklyn; but I still got aunts and uncles that are still there. So I go back once in a while and see all my cousins that I grew up with. I was just one of those kids. My dad was a huge Brooklyn Dodgers fan. When they moved, he vowed he’d never root for them again until they drafted me. So, it’s been a tough haul for him because you know how hard it is. Those Brooklyn Dodger fans are real stingy. They don’t like the L. A. Dodgers too much.

ML: Now the Brooklyn team is back. The NYP League, New York Penn League has a team out of Coney Island.

PD: My aunts and my uncles are season ticket holders, and they’re so excited to have baseball back there. It’s just a tribute to-they don’t care what level it is. They want just the team there, and it’s great for the young kids to play in that kind of atmosphere.

ML: Paul, when I saw you first play at Pac Bell Park this year, and you hit a ball-maybe right center, left center-all of a sudden you’re on second base and kind of holding your leg a little bit, but I said, “Hey, this guy is a catcher.” He can run. You really showed me something right away, and the season has taken off from there. But talk about this baseball season and how it started for you. And you’re really one of the stories of the year here in the National League.

PD: It’s been one of those things where Mr. Tracy, our manager, Mr. Daly, the owner, have just given me a chance to play everyday and that’s all I ask for. I had a tough road to get here-seven, eight years in the minor leagues and never thought I was going to get a chance; and they could’ve gone out and got a lot of different guys to fill the catching position. And they believed in me, and they gave me a shot to play everyday. So, the people keep asking, what am I doing different? I’m not doing anything different than I’ve done before. I’m just getting the chance to play everyday and that’s all I could ask for.

ML: In the Bay Area, here the people know you quite well already because you’re killing the Giants.

PD: It’s so fun to play over there at Pac Bell Park. You’ve got people yelling at you, they know who your brothers and sisters are, and all the bad things that ever happened to you; and it’s sort of fun. It’s just a great atmosphere. It’s a great rivalry, and if you can’t get up to play a Dodger-Giant game, you don’t deserve to play. It’s so fun to play there, and I think everybody’s level of game steps up a little bit. And I’ve been fortunate to have a good series against those guys and help our team out.

ML: If you had to describe the strength of your game-let’s start with hitting. What’s your strength? What do you look for? How would you describe yourself as a hitter because you’re hitting in the mid 300’s now and hitting real well.

PD: I’ve always been the type of guy that doesn’t like to strike out, and I’m a contact hitter and just putting the ball in play. I’m the type of guy that if you need me to move runners over or bunt, I’ll do that. I’ll occasionally hit a home run here and there, and that’s been my focus the whole year. I’m not trying to do anything special. When he put me in the lead off spot, I’ve got to like it now, so I don’t have to do anything special-just try to get on base. I think that’s why more home runs are starting to come.

ML: Well, not many catchers lead off. Jason Kendall comes to mind as one, but a leadoff hitter traditionally-you’ve got to take pitches. You got to get on. What’s your philosophy on that?

PD: Well, I remember what Trace told me. “You’re going to lead off.” I said, “I’m just going to get on anyway I know how.” So I haven’t changed anything. I’m not taking more pitches. Maybe a little bit more, but I’ve always been an aggressive hitter, and I didn’t want to take that aggressiveness out of me. So, I’ve just been doing the same thing I’ve always done. My job is that if I can get on base for Sheff and Greenie and EK , and Grud and those guys and Grissom, well, we’re going to win ball games because they’re going to get me in.

ML: Your defense-you look in the media guide and you see, “Hey, the guy throws out 35, 40% all the time.” How are you throwing in the big leagues, and tell us about your defense.

PD: So far this year I’ve felt I could’ve caught a little better. Of course, my catching is going to get picked on because I’m hitting so well, but stuff happens. I worked my tail off to become a decent catcher, and I feel like I’ve done a good job, but I felt I could’ve done a little better. My strong point has always been throwing, and hopefully the confidence of the pitching staff which I hope that I’ve grown-the guys have grown to like me, and that’s a big point of the game too.

ML: We just passed the All Star game, and I know you’re one of those that they talk about. “How come he’s not on the All Star team?” You probably should’ve been on the All Star team.

PD: I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed, but it happens. And I have no bad things to say about Bobby Valentine like everybody else does; but Bobby’s got a tougher decision. It’s a tough decision. He’s got what, two, three hundred guys that are hoping they’re on the team, and there’s going to be guys left out every year; and I was one of those guys. But I’m an old school kind of guy, and the guys that have more time than me, they deserve to go, and that’s the way it is. Hopefully I’ll get another shot to go some day.

ML: Paul, as I sit here and talk to you, you’ve got quite a shiner here on your left eye, and I know you got hit last weekend. Tell us what happened, and, of course, you’re such a tough kid. You don’t even come out of the game.

PD: Well, it was a one, one game against Seattle, and Jeff Nelson just hit me with a fast ball and hit me right on the cheek. I went down for a little bit, and when I was on the ground, I thought that when I’d got up I’d be dizzy. And I got up, and I was fine. The only reason I came out of the game that day towards the end is because my eye was closing up. I couldn’t see. But Jeff apologized to me many times. He’s such a class act. And I know he’s not trying to hit me there at all. That’s part of baseball. It happens, and my eye closed up. I was able to play the next day-no blurred vision, just a little hard seeing a little bit because my eye was closed up. I have a nice little shiner. It looks like I went ten rounds with Ali, but it’s feeling better, and I’m close to 100%. It just doesn’t look 100%.

ML: Well, of course, you’re with the Dodgers. The Dodgers may be one of the surprise teams, as you are one of the surprise players in the league. No one really expected it with all the injuries for the Dodgers. So what does it feel like to be a Dodger, after all the family background and you being born in Brooklyn? Your father can’t stand the Dodgers. What’s it like to be a Dodger?

PD: I’ll always be a Dodger just because they’re the first team that gave me a shot. So, I’m a big Dodger fan now. I used to hate the Dodgers when I was growing up. I was a Met fan, but the fans in L. A. have been super to me, and great to me, and good to my family, so I hope that I can be a Dodger for a long time.

ML: Paul Lo Duca-one of the more exciting players to come into the National League.

PD: Thank you very much. I appreciate it.


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