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ARTICLE ON LODUCA


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Here is an article written by Fred Claire who was the president of the Dodgers.

 

 

08/01/2004 12:11 AM ET

Claire: A letter to Lo Duca

 

Baseball Perspectives

 

Fred Claire

 

 

An open letter to Florida Marlin catcher Paul Lo Duca:

 

Dear Paul:

 

It seems strange to write you in care of the Florida Marlins. I'm sure it feels a little strange for you too.

 

I just wanted to drop you a note to congratulate you on a great career with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

 

I remember when we drafted you in June of 1993. There aren't a lot of 25th round draft selections that catch the attention of the general manager, but I recall the scouting report of Dodger scout Eddie Bane and the excitement he conveyed when you were selected.

 

You worked your way through the Dodger farm system step by step, from Vero Beach to Bakersfield to San Antonio to Albuquerque to Dodger Stadium.

 

It took you six seasons, but you just kept plugging away, and I never will forget your first hit -- June 21, 1998, in Colorado -- a single to center to score a run.

 

It was your first hit and my final day as the general manager of the Dodgers. When we flew back to Los Angeles after the game, I was called to Dodger Stadium and told my services were no longer needed.

 

As it turns out, my final player personnel move was to call you up from Albuquerque two days before your Major League debut.

 

You received the call to the big leagues because we needed a catcher in that Charles Johnson had requested permission to leave the team for a couple of days because there had been a death in his family.

 

We couldn't go with just one catcher and you were ready for the big leagues.

 

I guess we both can see a little irony here in that the Dodgers were trying to get Johnson to replace you this time around, but Charles declined.

 

One of the best things that happened to the Dodgers during the past six seasons was your outstanding play, spirit and team leadership.

 

When the Dodgers announced on Friday that you had been traded to the Marlins, I was pleased to see that more than one of the Los Angeles reporters referred to you as the "heart and soul" of the team. The beat guys got that one right, for sure.

 

You never complained when you worked your way through the minors even though you knew Mike Piazza was there behind the plate at Dodger Stadium. You talk about a guy blocking your path.

 

There was a lot of talk in our organization about a catcher named Angel Pena. Pena received a lot of attention, but you never let that bother you. You just kept plugging away.

 

Both you and I knew you had a future in the big leagues when you received a lot of attention from a coach in our organization who knew something about the position of catcher -- Mike Scioscia.

 

In a way, it seems you were destined to play for the Dodgers. After all, any player who is born in Brooklyn and survives 24 rounds before he is selected by the Dodgers has a little something extra in the mix.

 

At a time when the Dodgers were struggling for an identity and going from the ownership of the O'Malleys to Fox to the McCourt family you became a visible sign of stability.

 

When things were going rough and it seemed many players were hiding out in the trainer's room, you were the guy who always was there to stand before the microphones and cameras and answer the questions.

 

You never ran from the tough questions and you always were the first to direct the credit to other players. As the media reported, you were the "heart and soul."

 

It's obvious you were disappointed when the trade was announced on Friday but you took the news like the professional you are and you said you felt the Dodgers had enough talent and leadership to advance to postseason play. I hope you're right.

 

Sure, you showed your emotion when you met with the media to talk about the trade. That's just you. You always showed your emotion when you took the field and played the game.

 

Despite your disappointment with the trade, you headed off to join the Florida Marlins. You arrived in Miami in time to join your new teammates in the fifth inning of Saturday night's game.

 

My old buddy Jack McKeon didn't waste any time getting you into the game and you delivered a two-run, pinch-hit home run in the sixth inning to put the Marlins ahead, 5-4.

 

It had to feel good when the Marlin fans responded with a loud ovation. Believe me, they will love you in Miami.

 

You have had a rather amazing journey since that draft of 1993. There are not a lot of guys who come from that part of the draft and reach the Majors, let alone become an All-Star caliber player.

 

I know you wanted to stay with the Dodgers for your entire career but strange things happen in this game. Just ask the last catcher to get traded from the Dodgers to the Marlins, a fellow named Mike Piazza.

 

I wish you the very best, Paul, and I'm pleased that I had the opportunity to give you the call to the big leagues for an assignment that you had earned through you determination and hard work.

 

Best wishes, Fred Claire

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