Teen Lovers and Alleged Gambling Debts: The Story of Met Catcher's All-Star Season

ByABC News
August 16, 2006, 12:52 PM

Aug. 16, 2006 — -- As an all-star catcher for the New York Mets, Paul Lo Duca has to protect the plate from base runners trying to score for the opposing team. That may be easier than his other challenge: protecting his estranged wife and child from the tabloid reports about his alleged gambling problem and extramarital affairs.

In recent weeks, the New York Post has reported that two 19-year-olds have had affairs with Lo Duca, 34. The New York Daily News has reported that he had significant gambling debts and is battling a gambling addition, an accusation Lo Duca has denied. The Post ran a picture of Lo Duca's bikini-clad wife, who once appeared in a "Sexy Girl Next Door" Playboy magazine layout, opposite one of the women who claimed to have had had a fling with him.

Lo Duca has said he is frustrated because his wife and daughter are hurt most by the headlines.

"We're great friends, and the issue here is my daughter," he told the Daily News. "I love my daughter more than anything in the world, and I love my wife. We just decided we're parting ways, bottom line. We're great friends, and to drag her through what's been going on has been disappointing to me."

Lo Duca, in his first season with the Mets, has garnered cheers with stellar play and an invitation to Major League Baseball's All-Star Game, but he has had to battle tabloid headlines such as "Met's Teen Lover and "Meet the Debts."

Lo Duca has said he has a "love" for thoroughbreds and that he bets on horses but insisted he does not have a gambling problem.

"I do bet on horses legally. I have an online account," Lo Duca told reporters last week. "I have no gambling debts, no past debts ... nothing. All those allegations are false."

Mets manager Willie Randolph has said he has told his division-leading team to stay focused but also to support its beleaguered teammate.

"I think it's important to have the guys stick behind him," Mets third baseman David Wright told The Associated Press. "He's a great guy. ... I think it's important for him to know that he's got guys in here that care about him and guys that are going to have his back."