Where Have You Gone Lucas C. Duda? Our Nation Turns Its Lonely Eyes to You.
Okay, I realize no one ever uses the middle initial of this recently traded first baseman from the New York Mets.
I realize, too, that most of America does not lament his trade from the Mets to the Tampa Bay Rays. But this baseball fan does, and I have a feeling that lots of fans out there are experiencing a similar loss because a player they have grown to love and admire has been sent packing.
So just as Paul Simon immortalized Joe DiMaggio in his 1967 song from the movie “The Graduate,” I, too, sing a mournful dirge for a “friend” who has moved away.
Lucas Duda? Really?
I know. He’s not the most productive player ever. He’s never made the All-Star team. He was not even the best player on the Mets. But he was my favorite player. And now he’s gone.
Lucas, we hardly knew ye.
He played his first game for the Mets in 2010, but he struggled with injuries and inconsistent play. In addition, we weren’t sure he would stay with the team because the Mets already had a home-run hitting first sacker in Ike Davis. Davis, though, was also struggling, so the Mets traded him to the Pirates in 2014, and Cool Hand Luke took over.
Then, during the next few years, I followed his progress regularly. When possible, I listened to the games on the radio or watched on television, and I digested the box scores daily with my breakfast and my morning newspaper. I saw him play twice at Citi Field in New York and once at a spring training game in Florida. I miss him already.
For whenever the big guy — 6’ 4’” and 255 — came to the plate, I stopped whatever I was doing because he might do something special and memorable. From the left side of the plate, he waved his bat high and used his big leg kick to swing at fast balls up in his eyes. And while he struck out often, he also delivered monstrous drives to deep right center, drives that reminded me of my own playing days.
Alright, I admit I only hit one home run in my high-school career as a first baseman almost 50 years ago, but each of 125 Duda’s home runs brought me back to my own one shining moment, my own glory days. Give me that at least.
What did the Mets get in return for the big guy? A minor-league pitcher, Drew Smith, a guy I’ve never heard of before. And who will replace Lucas at the not-so-hot corner? In their first game without Duda, the Mets used outfielder Jay Bruce, but, ultimately, Dominic Smith will probably come up from the minor leagues to take over. And therein lies a significant truth.
Each year, the baseball trading deadline reminds all baseball fans of our own mortality. We will not play forever. We will not live forever.
At some point, we will begin to fade, and we will be replaced by a younger, stronger, and more polished version of ourselves. Most of the world won’t know or care, but perhaps one or two special people out there will recall us fondly and remember a highlight or two.
Do you remember when Lucas Duda hit a three-run homer against the Cubs in game four of the 2015 National League Playoffs to help the Mets reach the World Series? I do. Way to go, Big Guy. We’ll miss you.