Apr 11, 2016

2006 NL Eastern Champion Mets Catcher: Paul Loduca (2006-2007)

Paul Anthony Loduca was born on April 12, 1972 in Brooklyn, New York. The Loduca family left Brooklyn when Paul was a young child and moved west to Glendale Arizona.

He played baseball for two years at Community College eventually transferring to the great baseball school of Arizona State University. He played one season there, getting named the Sporting News Player of the Year getting named as a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award.

He batted .426 & set a school record hitting in 37 straight games. Loduca was drafted in 1993 in the 25th round, by the Los Angeles Dodgers. He spent five years in the minor leagues, highlighted by batting .327 at AA San Antonio in 1997 throwing out 46% of base runners at catcher. The next year he hit .319 at AAA Albuquerque before getting called up to the Dodgers at the end of the season.

He only played in six games that year, batting .286 (4-14). He began the next two seasons in the minors but hit over .350 each season getting called up to the Dodgers both years, playing behind Todd Hundley & Chad Krueter. By 2001 he made the Dodgers big league squad permanently having career highs in HRs (25) RBIs (90) & batting average hitting .320.

The next season his power numbers went down, but he became one of the NL's best contact hitters. Loduca struck out only 31 times in 580 at bats, and was the second hardest man in the NL to strike out. He batted .281 with a .330 on base %, 38 doubles, 10 HRs & 64 RBIs. He became one of the league’s better defensive catchers leading all backstops in runners caught stealing (42), assists (76) & put outs (965).

In 2003 he threw out 41% of base runners attempting to steal, leading the NL in put outs (1014) assists (100) caught stealing (57) as well as errors (15). He would also lead the NL in errors in the 2004-2005 seasons.

The Italian / American Loduca became a very popular player in the Los Angeles area and was being compared with other great Italian / American Dodger catchers from Southern California’s past, Mike Scioscia & Mike Piazza.

In 2003 Loduca made his first All Star team, and had a 25 game hitting streak, which is second longest in Dodgers history. He hit .273 with seven HRs 34 doubles & 52 RBIs. He began the 2004 season in Los Angeles batting .301 with 10 HRs & 49 RBIs making another All Star team.

At the 2004 trade deadline, he was dealt along with Juan Encarnacion and Guillermo Mota to the Florida Marlins for Hee Seop Choi & Brad Penny. He finished the year at .286 with 13 HRs 29 RBIs & 80 RBIs.

Loduca spent the entire 2005 season in Florida, batting .283with 23 doubles, six HRs 57 RBIs & a .334 on base %. The Marlins wanted to dumped salary in the off season & he was traded to the New York Mets for minor leaguers Dante Brinkley and Gaby Hernandez.

In 2006 Loduca had some big shoes to fill, as he ended replacing Mike Piazza behind the plate at Shea Stadium. On Opening Day he was behind the plate catching Tom Glavine's 3-2 win over the Washington Nationals at Shea Stadium.

He batted in the second spot & had two hits including an RBI single, quickly becoming a popular player at Shea Stadium. He was a good contact hitter, in that number two spot behind Jose Reyes able to move the leadoff man into scoring position when needed.

In May he had a twelve game hit streak & by the end of the month he was batting .312 with 23 runs scored & 14 RBIs. On May 1st Loduca ended a game against the Nationals when his sacrifice bunt was mishandled resulting on a throwing error by Washington Pitcher Gary Majewski.

In an attempt to throw out Jose Reyes at second Endy Chavez scored the winning run. On May 13th he broke an 8-8 tie in Milwaukee hitting a top of the 9th inning HR off Dave Turnbow leading the Mets to a 9-8 win. During the month he also had a three RBI day in a Mets 13-4 romp over the Phillies, as well as a four hit day against Arizona on the 31st.

He was back at the .300 mark by the All Star break & made his fourth All Star team, representing the Mets as the games starting catcher. He went 0-2 in the game held at Pittsburgh's PNC Park. He continued his consistent hitting, closing out July with another twelve game hit streak & six multi hit games in that stretch.

In a mid season subway series game he embarrassed Alex Rodriguez in his own ballpark, calling him out on national TV for showing up Mets pitcher Heath Bell, after hitting a HR in a blow out game.

Loduca was certainly a hardnosed player but also earned a reputation as a hot head, getting into arguments not only with opposing players but umpires as well. At first Loduca had a good relationship with the press, until an August story came out about his ongoing divorce suit with his wife; Playboy Playmate Sonya. After that he stopped giving interviews & was no longer available in the clubhouse for interviews.

As the season winded down the Mets clinched the NL Eastern title on September 18th, Loduca closed out the season driving in runs in five of the last seven regular season games. He hit .318 on the season leading the team in batting average & coming in seventh in the N.L. batting race. He had a career high .355 on base % and 39 doubles. He hit five HRs with seven sac hits & 49 RBIs.

Behind the plate he posted a .987 fielding % but led the league in errors (11) for a third straight season. He threw out 27 base runners (24%) while allowing 84 stolen bases (3rd most in the NL). He was second in put outs with 802.

Post Season: In the NLDS he tore up his former Los Angeles Dodger teammates batting .455 (5-11) with a double & three RBIs. He caught all three games in the Mets series sweep.

In the second inning of Game #1 at Shea Stadium, the Dodgers Russell Martin singled to right field with two men on & no one out. Both runners; Jeff Kent & J.D. Drew attempted to score, one after another but Loduca tagged out both runners at the plate in succession. It was one of the strangest post season double plays in Mets team history. Loduca had two hits with a run scored in that Opening game.

In Game #3 he drove in what would be the games go ahead run, in the 5th inning, while the Mets & Dodgers were tied at five. His single scored pinch hitter Michael Tucker & advanced Joe Reyes to second. Reyes would later score as well. In the 8th inning Loduca drove in Chris Woodward with another single in the Mets 9-5 Series clinching win.

In the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals he struggled, batting just .207. He drove in three runs while playing in all seven games. In the exciting Game #6, Loduca’s 7th inning single off former Met Braden Looper scored Michael Tucker & Jose Reyes putting New York up 4-0.

The 2006 post season with the Mets would be Loduca’s only post season appearance in his career.
 In 2007 he opened the season with two hits & three RBIs in the Mets 6-1 Opening Day win in St. Louis against the World Champion Cardinals. At the middle of May he was hitting over .300 but then fell off from there. He battled injuries through the summer and his average dropped to .272 with 18 doubles 9 HRs a .311 on base % & 54 RBIs in 119 games played (113 behind the plate).

Sonya LoDuca
Defensively he posted a .989 fielding %, throwing out 23% of base runners attempting to steal. He allowed 72 stolen bases (5th in the NL) & made nine errors (4th most in the NL).

Drama: By now Loduca had fallen into hard times in his personal life. He was the subject of many New York tabloid scandal pages & it rubbed Mets management the wrong way.

After his messy divorce & snubbing of the New York media, he had more scandal. He was accused of fooling around with a 19 year old Long Island girl, while he was still married to Sonia, the former Playboy Playmate.

Loduca was later linked to owing huge gambling debts as well as being involved in a horse racing scandal. He was accused of taking possession of a Philly race horse he had sold through a breeding farm.

On top of all that, he then was named in the Mitchell Report for steroid use. All this drama led the Mets not signing him for 2008 as his contract expired.

From there he went to the Washington Nationals to play for his old coach in New York, Manny Acta.

In 2008, Loduca only hit .230 in 46 games with the Nats and was released by July. He signed on with the Florida Marlins in August and hit .294 with two doubles in 34 at bats.

Personal: That winter Paul married a Greek girl, Rietsa Lelekakis whom he met at Posh lounge in Garden City, Long Island. She has modeled wedding gowns for Newsday & also released a dance record.

In 2010 he got a minor league contract with the Colorado Rockies, but was released in May after playing at the AAA level & officially retired.

In his 11 year playing career, he batted .286 with 1112 hits 80 HRs 222 doubles 481 RBIs & a .337 on base %. He caught 932 games posting a .990 fielding % (79th all time). He has thrown out 30% of would be base stealers, with 6311 put outs (61st all time). Loduca has turned 61 double plays & made 66 errors in 6868 chances.

Retirement: Loduca is a horse racing analyst for the TVG network.

He is also an ambassador for the Los Angeles Dodgers, helping in promotions.

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