|Julio Lugo with the Red Sox in 2007. Wikimedia Commons.|
Julio Lugo, the 12-year Major League Baseball veteran who won a championship with the Boston Red Sox in 2007 and attended Fort Hamilton High School in Bay Ridge, passed away on Monday at the age of 45, most likely of a heart attack, according to reports. He would have turned 46 on Tuesday.
Lugo, a Sunset Park native, led Fort Hamilton to two PSAL baseball championships, in 1992, and 1993. He was drafted by the Houston Astros in 1994, and due to the strike that season, signed with them the following year.
In 2000, Lugo made his Major League debut with the Astros, and he played in 116 games, hit .283, with 10 home runs and 40 RBI, 37 walks, 22 doubles, five triples, and 22 stolen bases, showing his incredible speed.
That spring, when Houston was in town to play the Mets, he came and had an assembly in the Fort Hamilton HS auditorium.
In 2001, he put up nearly identical numbers to his rookie season, as he hit .263 with 10 home runs and 37 RBI, with 46 walks, three triples and 12 stolen bases.
Houston let him go during the 2003 season due to off-the-field issues, and he signed with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, where he continued to improve on offense.
In 2003, he hit .246 with no home runs and two RBI in 22 games with Houston, and then in 117 games with Tampa Bay, he hit .275 with 15 home runs and 53 RBI, with 35 walks, 13 doubles, four triples and 10 steals.
In his first full season with Tampa Bay, 2004, he hit .275 with seven home runs and 75 RBI, with 160 hits, 42 doubles, four triples, and 21 stolen bases.
In 2005, he excelled at the plate, hitting a career-best .295, with six home runs and 57 RBI, with 182 hits, 36 doubles, six triples, and 39 stolen bases.
In 2006, Tampa Bay traded him to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and he got to play for them in the National League Division Series against the Mets. In an article at that time in the New York Post, Lugo talked about growing up a Mets fan, with his favorite player being Howard Johnson, and was quoted as saying, "I was raised in Brooklyn, Sunset Park. I was crazy about the Mets. I used to love the blue hats they had. This team has a lot of history." At the time, there was speculation the Mets would sign him as a free agent.
Lugo signed with the Red Sox before the 2007 season, and that year he played a solid shortstop and he hit .237 with 8 home runs, 73 RBI, and 135 hits. In the postseason that year, he delivered with three hits in 10 at-bats, with three runs scored, in the American League Division Series against the Los Angeles Angels, followed by five hits in 25 at-bats, with 2 RBI and three runs scored, against the Cleveland Indians in the A.L. Championship Series. He really shined in the World Series against the Colorado Rockies, which the Red Sox swept, as he went 5-for-13 with a double, an RBI, and two runs scored.
Lugo played with Boston through the 2009 season, when he was hampered by injuries, and they released him with a year-plus left on his contract. He finished the 2009 season with the St. Louis Cardinals, then signed with the Baltimore Orioles. In 2010 for the O's, he played in 93 games, hitting .249, with no home runs and 20 RBI.
He then went to Atlanta for the 2011 season, and he played in just 22 games before retiring. The one memorable moment he had there was when he was scored the winning run on a controversial play in a 19-inning game against the Pittsburgh Pirates on July 26, 2011. The game was tied at 3 with runners on first and third in the bottom of the 19th, with Lugo on third base. Scott Proctor hit one to third baseman Pedro Alvarez, who threw home to nab Lugo, who was tagged by catcher Michael McKenry, only to have home plate umpire Jerry Meals call Lugo safe. Since it was in the pre-replay days, the call could not be overturned despite a vehement argument from Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle as Atlanta celebrated. Lugo was released on September 2, 2011, and an attempt to join Cleveland the next season fizzled, and the last professional baseball he played was with the Peoria Explorers in the independent Freedom Pro League in 2013.