Lo Duca gets royal treatment in JapanPosted: Monday November 11, 2002 12:02 AM
"I'm going to let them show me around," Lo Duca said Monday. "We're going out with Nomo one night and Ishii is going to be the tour guide the next night."
Lo Duca is in Japan along with 27 other major leaguers for a seven-game exhibition series against Japan's All-Stars.
During the regular season, Nomo and Ishii relied on the native of Brooklyn, who caught 149 games for the Dodgers. He ranked first among catchers in the majors with 163 hits.
Lo Duca, who is making his first trip to Japan, said communicating with his Japanese teammates isn't as hard it seems.
"In baseball, body language is important and we use a lot of that," said Lo Duca. "Also, I'm lucky because our pitching coach Jim Colborn speaks Japanese."
Colborn was a pitching coach for the Orix BlueWave of Japan's Pacific League in the early 1990s. Los Angeles manager Jim Tracy played in Japan for the Taiyo Whales in 1983 and 1984.
The Dodgers just missed out on the NL wild card this season. They went 7-2 down the stretch while the San Francisco Giants went 7-0 to advance to the playoffs.
"We played tough, its just that the Giants wouldn't lose," said Lo Duca, adding that injuries to pitchers Ishii and Kevin Brown didn't make the playoff run any easier.
Ishii was struck in the forehead on Sept. 8 on a line drive by Brian Hunter of the Houston Astros. The Dodger rookie required surgery and didn't pitch again but Lo Duca is confident he'll make a successful comeback.
"He's going to have to come back and get over the fear," said Lo Duca. "But he's mentally tough and I'm sure he can do it."
Japan's All-Stars took Game 1 of the seven-game series, winning 8-4 at Tokyo Dome on Sunday. Lo Duca is expected to be behind the plate for Game 2 on Monday at Fukuoka Dome.
So far, Lo Duca likes what he sees of the Japanese players.
"I've watched the Japanese players and you can see they can all play," said Lo Duca.
One player Lo Duca is really impressed with is Hideki Matsui, who said last week that he intends to play in the major leagues next season after becoming a free agent. Several major league teams, including the New York Yankees, are reported to be interested in Matsui.
"You can see that he's very polished," said Lo Duca. "He just missed a double down the line the other night and I think he'd be an impact player in the majors."