Duda enjoys his new digs
The move from college ball to the professional ranks can change a player's practices and comforts in many ways. For the 2007 seventh round pick, getting acclimated to the new style of ball and competition has been slow. Confident and determined, Duda knows he has the tools to make it all come together.
Hitting just .229 through the Cyclones first 15 games this season, things have not exactly gone first baseman Lucas Duda’s way. Making no excuses for his ineffectiveness at the plate this season, the hulking 6’4”, 225-pound Duda knows it is up to him to take his game to the next level.
“I’m just trying to do the best I can. The pitching is a bit different in college,” said Duda, who led the USC Trojans in home runs with seven this season. “I haven’t had a problem with the switch to wooden bats because I was using them a little in college to get ready for this, so I don’t have any excuses. In the end, it’s not the sword that counts, it’s the swordsman.”
Despite his paltry batting average this season, Duda has performed exceptionally well in the clutch, hitting .364 with seven RBI with runners in scoring position. Putting on a few shows during batting practice so far this season and showing remarkable power to all fields, it is obvious to see why Cyclones management are so high on the 21-year old.
The media around Keyspan Park have also been very impressed by Duda and feel that his batting stance, which is similar to White Sox designated hitter Jim Thome, and penchant for big hits make him one of the more impressive prospects on the team.
However, Duda is not ready to accept compliments like that, especially during the early stages of his career. He feels that he has a lot of work to do before being put in the same sentence as some of the Major League elite.
“That’s just the way I’m comfortable up there. I’m not trying to really look like anybody. That’s pretty cool to be compared to someone like that though,” said Duda, who grew up a huge Angels fan and watched first basemen like Wally Joyner and Darrin Erstad throughout his childhood.
“I wish I could hit like him [Thome]. The guys I try and emulate though are players like Mark Teixeira and the other elite first baseman in the league. Right now though, I have some pretty big shoes to fill before I can even come close to comparing myself to someone like that.”
While the coaches feel that it is only a matter of time before Duda heats up offensively, they also understand that he is making another transition that may be playing a part in his struggles. Playing most of this season in left field for USC, Duda is making the transition to first base, sharing time with Jason Jacobs and giving the Cyclones the power hitting platoon they have not had in years.
“I’m still making a bit of an adjustment back to first base,” said Duda, who hit .280 and had 34 RBI for the Trojans this season. “It’s a bit of a jump getting back into the swing there, but I’m comfortable and love catching the ball at first. Both positions are pretty difficult, but you need to hustle more at first.”
Putting his offensive struggles and transition to a new position into perspective, Duda knows that over time, he will meet both his own, and the organization’s, expectations.
“Everyone really gets along on the team,” said Duda. “They’re all great players and even better people. That kind of makes things easier when you’re struggling a bit. I know with their support, I’m going to start picking it up offensively. I just want to help this team win and make the most out of this.”