Lo Duca touches lives young and old
Clemente Award nominee helps sick kids, women with cancer
NEW YORK -- Far removed from the sterile world of hospital beds and heart monitors -- the world where Paul Lo Duca usually gives back -- the Mets catcher was caught off guard last month when a group of sick children wandered onto the field at Shea Stadium.
These were the children whose lives, thanks to Lo Duca, had been changed. So when one little girl in particular spotted the catcher, she wasn't shy about running over and greeting her hero.
"She came up and just said, 'I want to give you a big hug,'" Lo Duca said. "She was only like a 9-year-old girl and she was very sick, and I almost started crying."
Turns out Lo Duca, who has touched so many lives, can have his own life touched every once in a while, too.
That little girl -- and so many others like her -- is the reason why Lo Duca has earned the Mets' nomination for this year's Roberto Clemente Award. Each of Major League Baseball's 30 teams has one nominee, and Lo Duca has distinguished himself among the Mets for this year's nod.
The award recognizes the player who best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual's contribution to his team. It is named in honor of the former Pirates outfielder whose spirit and goodwill will always be remembered. Clemente died in a plane crash while attempting to transport relief supplies to earthquake-stricken Nicaragua on Dec. 31, 1972. The winner will be announced during the World Series.
Carlos Delgado won the Mets' nomination a year ago, and went on to win the award itself in October. And while Lo Duca would certainly love to follow suit, he also knows that in many senses, he's already won.
"When you go to those children's hospitals and a lot of those kids are sick, they don't realize really 100 percent what they're going through," Lo Duca said. "But their parents do. To see a smile on the kids' faces -- and see a smile on the parents' faces -- is huge for me."
It's not all about the kids, either. Much of Lo Duca's charity work revolves around the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund, a mission that began 11 years ago when the catcher's mother died of the disease.
So much of the time and money that Lo Duca gives -- and he certainly gives his share -- is colored by the memory of his mother. She's the reason why he became involved with this line of work in the first place, and she's the reason why it's grown to be such an important part of not only his career, but his life.
That's precisely what makes his passion shine, and why, even in a game full of big hearts, his generosity remains unique.
"There's a ton of people in this game that do a lot of great things, and that's not even saying the guys in this clubhouse," Lo Duca said. "It is an honor and something that I want to keep doing for the rest of my life."
Anthony DiComo is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.