As his major-league aspirations with the Dodgers stalled, catcher Paul Lo Duca once envisioned playing home games at Edison Field for Angel Manager Mike Scioscia.
Scioscia was the Dodgers' minor league catching coordinator in Lo Duca's early professional seasons and they shared mutual admiration. When Scioscia was hired as manager of the Angels before the 2000 season, Lo Duca still was not regarded as an everyday player in the big leagues and was ready for a change of scenery.
"I've admitted it, I wanted to be traded here a couple of years ago and I wanted to come where Scioscia was coming," Lo Duca said before the start of the weekend's interleague series at Anaheim.
The Dodgers floated Lo Duca's name in trade proposals with several teams but never pulled the trigger.
When Jim Tracy replaced Davey Johnson as manager before last season, he selected Lo Duca as his starting catcher and Lo Duca responded by batting .325 with 25 home runs and 90 runs batted in.
General Manager Dan Evans, who was hired to replace Kevin Malone on Oct. 3, 2001, is happy that Scioscia was so high on Lo Duca before he left the organization.
"I'm really glad they didn't make a big mistake and move him because to me he's one of the most important players on our club on and off the field," Evans said.
Scioscia said he never questioned Lo Duca's ability to hit major league pitching. And after watching Lo Duca in spring training in the mid-1990s, he said he knew Lo Duca could eventually catch it as well.
"There are some players who light your eyes up with their tools and there are some that light up your eyes with their makeup and ability to play--and play far above what their tools dictate they might do," Scioscia said. "When Paul first started to catch, there were some rough edges. But I think once I saw his work and how good his hands were and that he was going to work to make himself proficient to be a catcher, there was no doubt he could play in the big leagues."
Lo Duca, who signed with the Dodgers out of Arizona State in 1993, played at double-A San Antonio in 1995. It was Scioscia who advised the Dodger brass to send Lo Duca back to Class-A Vero Beach the following season so he could catch every day.
Lo Duca, who signed a three-year, $7-million contract in February, is continuing to develop into one of the top catchers in the National League. Before Saturday's game, he was batting .319 with four homers and 36 RBIs. Lo Duca went 0 for 3 in the Dodgers' 7-0 loss.
"He could always hit, and it's his heart, desire and work ethic that pushed him up to a level of all-star caliber," Scioscia said.
Staff writer Jason Reid contributed to this report.