Feb. 20, 2004
Hometown: Fallbrook, CA
High School: Fallbrook HS
Major: Political Science
It's been worth the wait for Donny Lucy. Although the highly-touted Stanford catcher managed to start 59 games in his first two seasons at Stanford, only 11 of those were behind the plate as he waited patiently in the wings of Ryan Garko, a First Team All-American and the winner of the 2003 Johnny Bench Award as the nation's top catcher.
The wait was about twice as long as the highly touted Lucy had hoped. When Lucy came to Stanford for his freshman season in 2002, Garko was coming off a terrific sophomore campaign in which he led the team with a .368 batting average, adding seven homers and 43 RBI. The plan seemed to be for Lucy to learn for a year under Garko, maybe even play another position to get his potent bat into the lineup and take over as the team's starting catcher when Garko was drafted and moved on to the professional baseball after his junior year.
Everything seemed to be going according to plan early in his freshman season. Lucy got into the starting lineup at first base early on and made an immediate impact, driving in at least one run in each of his first 13 collegiate starts as he continued to hone his catching skills with the experienced Garko during practice. Lucy was hitting .340 with three homers and 22 RBI after his first 13 starts, but eventually fell into a slump and lost his starting job to senior Arik VanZandt. By the end of the year, his playing time had been dramatically reduced as he made just two starts during the second half of the season.
In early June, Lucy's world could have crumbled. To the surprise of nearly everybody associated with Stanford Baseball, the 2002 MLB First-Year Player Draft came and went without Garko being selected by any of the 30 Major League Baseball organizations. The obvious focus was on Garko, but his snub also had serious side effects on Lucy, who would now probably have to wait another year to become the team's everyday catcher.
Still, Lucy held out hope that he might see more time behind the plate as a sophomore than he did when he made just four starts at catcher during his rookie year.
"I didn't have the idea that I was going to catch every day, but I was hoping that maybe we were going to split time," said Lucy. "However, during fall ball it became pretty apparent that Ryan was going to do most of the catching."
Lucy ended up with just seven starts behind the plate as a sophomore.
"The day I didn't get drafted was probably as tough for Donny as it was for me," confirmed Garko, who developed a close friendship with Lucy during their two seasons as collegiate teammates. "I respect him because a lot of other people might have chosen to go
another route, but he showed a lot of character and made the best out of a tough situation for him by deciding to try to help the team in other ways."
Lucy actually started three of the team's first eight games behind the dish as a sophomore, but knowing that he was grasping for playing time, admittedly pressed offensively early in the season and started the year in a major slump. At the end of the team's first nine games, Lucy's average had dropped all the way to .095 and he suffered through an almost unimaginable stretch where he struck out in 11 consecutive at bats. Add in a hamstring injury and Lucy found himself nearly entirely out of the starting lineup until early April, when he returned as a part-time starter at four different positions, primarily as a first baseman and designated hitter, but occasionally behind the plate to spell Garko and even once as a rightfielder.
"You just have to keep working," added Lucy. "I could have done one of two things, either keep working hard in practice and intra-squad games, or give up on it and complain. I'd like to think I took the first route, and that it has paid dividends."
With Garko now in the professional baseball ranks after being selected in the third round of the 2003 MLB First-Year Player Draft by the Cleveland Indians, his dividends are being paid now. Lucy has started all nine of the team's games behind the plate this season, already nearly doubling the number of previous collegiate starts he had made at the position. He is third on the club with a .375 batting average, while adding a homer, six RBI and a stolen base.
"It was a shock to everyone when Ryan was not drafted after his junior year," said Lucy. "It was tough for me, but in a program like this you just wait your turn. It's been worth the wait."
Projected by many as first round pick in the 2004 MLB First Year Player Draft, Lucy admits that it is tough not to think about the draft that is now less than four months away.
"I think that if anyone tells you they're not thinking about it, they may not be telling the truth," joked Lucy. "When you're growing up, the dream is to play Major League Baseball. Everyone that comes to Stanford wants to make that step. You try to put it out of
your head for now, but I would love for that opportunity to be there at the end of the year."
In the meantime, Lucy is enjoying every game behind the plate and his new role as the veteran instead of the heir-apparent. Just as Garko did for him, he is hoping that he can pass along some of his knowledge and insight to talented Stanford backup catcher John Hester, who has moved into Lucy's former role.
"It tells you a lot about Donny Lucy that he was able to wait for his turn," concludes Stanford head coach Mark Marquess. "He worked hard and learned a lot from Ryan Garko. He made some adjustments to become a better player, and that's hard to do when you're not playing every day. Now, he's doing the same thing for John Hester than Garko was doing for him."
by Kyle McRae