Lucas Duda is big. He’s not overly muscular or fat, nor is he built disproportionately like an NBA player or Abraham Lincoln. He’s just a big guy. Big hands, a big head with a big mop of blonde hair, a big torso sitting on big legs.
The big guy also hits big home runs — a 437 foot shot against Aaron Harang last week, a 447 footer against Leo Nunez in July, and then a 430 foot homer against Nunez again a week later. He’s hit three of the longest home runs by a Mets batter this season, high arcing, impressive home runs. When he gets a hold of one, he gets all of it.
But even with such size and power, Duda isn’t a home run hitter — at least according to him. And me, too, if you asked me. But also according to him.
Before Saturday’s game at Citi Field, I talked with Duda about hitting home runs, his least favorite nickname, and running around the bases with his head down. Thanks to the miracles of the internet, you can read what he had to say below – and if you get a buddy, read out both parts in funny voices:
Patrick Flood: You’re coming out to Jimi Hendrix this year. Did you pick that?
Lucas Duda: I did. Last year . . . I liked the song. Last year it worked pretty well, so I thought I’d use it this year. Obviously is hasn’t worked too well for me this year.
Flood: So it was a don’t mess with success thing?
Flood: You’re from California originally?
Duda: I am.
Flood: What’s the biggest difference between the east coast and the west coast?
Duda: I think just the overall pace of life, dude. California is kinda more laid back, whereas here everything is just go-go-go. But I like New York. It’s different. It’s a good experience I think.
Flood: You still live there in the offseason?
Duda: I do. I still live there.
Flood: Your parents live out there still?
Flood: What do they do?
Duda: My dad actually retired. He was a land surveyor for the county. And my mom works with special ed students.
Duda: Older brother. He’s 31. [Note: The USC website says that Duda also has a sister.]
Flood: What does he do?
Duda: Construction. He didn’t go to college or anything.
Flood: And you are . . . 24 now?
Duda: I just turned 25, actually.
Flood: So there’s a six year gap between you two. Would he beat up on you a lot?
Duda: He would, that bastard.
Flood: Is he your size?
Duda: No, he’s a little smaller.
Flood: At what point did you overtake him?
Duda: Probably . . . first year in college.
Flood: Really? So were you a late bloomer?
Flood: So in high school you weren’t the size you are now?
Duda: No, high school actually, I was starting to grow, but I was kinda skinnier. First year of college I put on some more weight. Towards the end of my high school career I was putting on more weight. So I’d say I could probably take him after my junior or senior year.
Flood: Could you still take him now?
Duda: Oh yeah. For sure now.
Flood: Then you went to USC?
Duda: I did.
Flood: See, I looked up your stats in college and in the minors, and you didn’t really start hitting a lot of home runs until last year. You were ten home runs a year all the way through — what changed?
Duda: Honestly, I don’t really know man. Like you said, in college I didn’t really hit a lot of homers. The first years in pro ball I didn’t hit a lot of homers. I was more of an average guy — not just average, but doubles – until I got to learn my swing more. The correct swing path, I’d guess you’d say. Instead of swinging up, swinging down to catch that backspin. Honestly, I don’t really know. Just a lucky year.
Flood: Was there a conscious adjustment?
Flood: So just all of a sudden you starting hitting a bunch of home runs?
Duda: (laughing) Yeah, I guess, you know? I wish I had an answer.
Flood: Was there any pressure on you, at any point? Because you’re a big guy, so that’s what people always say about you, he’s going to hit a ton of home runs.
Duda: Yeah. If I’m going to stay in the big leagues, I have to hit home runs. I have to be a run producer. So yeah, if I’m not doing my job, I probably won’t be here.
Flood: Was there any pressure in the minors? When you’re hitting ten home runs, maybe people think you should hit more than that.
Duda: Myself, I’m probably my biggest critic. Of course you always want to hit homers, and when you’re a big guy playing a corner position. But all of a sudden those doubles started turning into home runs.
Flood: Do you think of yourself as a home run hitter now? Some people say there’s a difference — some hitters are home run hitters, and others are good hitters who happen to hit home runs as opposed to someone always trying to swing for the fences.
Duda: I don’t think I’m a home run hitter. I think I’m more of a gap to gap guy. I think Prince Fielder is a home run hitter. I just think of myself as a gap to gap guy.
Flood: You don’t strikeout that much compared to other home run hitters. Maybe you’ll get up to 100 strikeouts in a full major league season, but that’s not that much for someone hitting 20-25 home runs.
Duda: Yeah, that’s probably another way you could categorize it. I’m not a home run hitter because I don’t strikeout as much as a regular home run hitter. I shoot the gaps, trying to make solid contact as much as I can.
Flood: You have a lot of nicknames . . . I don’t know if you know this.
Duda: I do.
Flood: Things like “The Big Lebowski.” How do you feel about them?
Duda: They’re all right, they’re all right. Some of them kinda better than others.
Flood: Which ones don’t you like?
Duda: Which ones don’t I like? I think Izzy calls me “Buffalo Head,” cause my head is so big.
Flood: You’re not fond of that?
Duda: Yeah. [Looking towards Isringhausen's locker] Bastard. Just the ones about my big head.
Flood: You’re not sick of people coming up and quoting The Big Lebowski to you? Does that happen a lot?
Duda: Yeah, I get that all the time. I’m used to it. Same with the “Doo-da, doo-da” song. I’m sick of that one too . . . but it’s all right, they don’t really bother me.
Flood: I have to say, when you hit home runs – the last one you hit, I’ve never seen anyone look embarrassed to hit a home run before.
Duda: Which one? San Diego?
Flood: Yeah. It looked like you just sort of ran around the bases with your head down . . . cause, I mean, you hit a bomb.
Duda: Yeah. I’m not trying to show anybody up – but I got it, you know? So I just hit it, put my head down, ran around the bases.
Flood: Do you think that’s ever going to change?
Duda: I’m not going to show anybody up. I don’t want to get any of my teammates hurt. Especially if I hit a homer and someone else gets dusted up. I don’t like doing that. I’ve only got a year here in the big leagues. I’m not going to act like I’m Prince Fielder.
Flood: How do you feel about next year?
Duda: I honestly don’t know. I’m going to take it day by day.
Flood: Because they have Davis and Bay, and right field would be where you’d be.
Duda: Davis is a great first baseman, and then Bay is a great left fielder. I’ll take it day by day, especially here. Anything can happen in baseball.