By CARY CARDWELL in San Antonio and LARRY CELONA in New York
August 7, 2006 -- Met catcher Paul Lo Duca is having an All-Star season on the field - but his personal life is in shambles after his Playboy-model wife accused him of scoring off the field and filed for divorce, The Post has learned.
Sonia Lo Duca - the mother of his 21-month-old daughter, Bella Lucia - has filed papers in her Texas hometown claiming that their marriage has "become insupportable" because of "adultery."
The suit does not describe the nature of the alleged cheating.
But 34-year-old Sonia's family first heard of her husband's alleged philandering during spring training this year.
"She [Sonia] told him she would stick by him through everything except that - she couldn't tolerate adultery," said Sonia's mother, Consuelo Flores.
"She thought she could trust him. She was just so distraught. She couldn't believe it."
Flores said she was told it was not a long-term affair, but a short-term fling that led to the adultery charge.
When asked where it happened, Flores said, "Probably in New York, although it could have been in any city."
The Brooklyn-born Paul Lo Duca, also 34, declined to comment.
The couple met in the mid-1990s in San Antonio through a mutual friend while he played for the San Antonio Missions, then a farm team for the Los Angeles Dodgers, according to a friend.
Sonia, a native San Antonian, attended both John Jay HS in the middle-class Northside School District, as well as the University of the Incarnate Word, a private Catholic university in her hometown, the friend said.
According to court papers, Lo Duca married Sonia, whose maiden name is Flores, on Nov. 2, 2000.
That was just few months before the start of his blockbuster first full season in the majors, in which he hit .320 for the Dodgers.
The year 2001 was also big for Sonia.
She posed for Playboy's "Sexy Girl Next Door" spread, which appeared only on the magazine's Web site, a Playboy spokeswoman said.
Sonia's mom called her daughter "a Christian woman" who attends a nondenominational church.
She said she knew nothing about her daughter's former connection with Playboy.
A source close to Lo Duca said the ballplayer knew that Sonia had been a Playboy model, and that he doesn't want his wife to be embarrassed about it now.
"He's aware of that. He's trying to be protective of his wife," the source said.
"He doesn't want her name unfairly dragged through the mud with something that happened a long time ago."
Success brought its rewards, and the couple was able to move into a $1 million mansion in a gated community in San Antonio in 2003.
Their daughter was born the next year.
In the off season this year, Lo Duca was reportedly given a $6.6 million contract to play for the Amazin's - and his performance is a big part of their rise to the top of the National League East.
But just two weeks before Lo Duca was to start behind the plate for the National League in the 2006 All-Star game, Sonia dropped a bombshell with her divorce filing on June 30.
The court papers cite adultery as the grounds for divorce, and also ask that a judge bar Lo Duca from "consuming alcohol within the 24 hours before or during the period of possession of or access to the child."
They also ask that the catcher be banned from letting "an unrelated adult with whom [Lo Duca] has an intimate or dating relationship remain in the same residence with the child."
Sonia's lawyer, Ann Buonocore, was quick to point out that this is standard language found in a divorce petition and that it wasn't implying specific behavior relating to Lo Duca.
The petition says the couple "ceased to live together as husband and wife on or about April 19" of this year.
"This is very upsetting to her," Buonocore said.
"There are very few wives who will" tolerate adultery, the attorney said - but added, "The parties are hoping to work out an amicable settlement."
The source close to Paul Lo Duca said any extramarital incidents happened after the separation, not before, and noted that there are "two sides to every divorce."
Buonocore said her client wants to avoid publicity and the couple is trying to figure out a way to raise their child jointly and divide their property fairly.
"She really wants to maintain her privacy," the attorney said.
"It's not her desire to have her divorce in the newspaper. Paul is a star unto himself. Publicity is fine for him."
A Met spokesman said the Lo Ducas still speak to each other several times a week.
"There's no animosity or hatred between them," said the spokesman, Jay Horwitz said. "Everybody in the Mets organization knows he's getting a divorce . . . [His teammates] feel badly for him, they sympathize with him, and they're incensed with [the] invasion of [his] privacy."
Those close to the pair said that in light of what happened, divorce was inevitable.
Lo Duca wasn't in the most talkative of moods Friday, when he reportedly wouldn't take an interview, saying, "Not today, not for the rest of the year."
He later added, cryptically, "You'll know Sunday."
Lo Duca wouldn't talk to a Post reporter on Saturday. Asked if he had a minute, the normally chatty player answered, "Nope. Sorry."
He let his bat do the talking last night in the Mets' 8-1 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies at Shea Stadium.
Lo Duca went 3 for 4, with a double and scored a run. Two of his hits were in the fourth inning.
Exactly thats what im saying even with this happening he hasnt slowed down 1 bit. First of all how many players cheat? Alot. Atleast he didnt beat his wife because people would of hated him. Atleast it is not steriods, he cheated its not as bad as it could of been. He will continue to stay hot.
The key word is alleged. Marriages unfortunately fail. It apparently hasn't affected his performance, and he's handling it pretty maturely, not commenting much at all. They're handling this a lot better than the Strahans did.
Oh, and this is yet another example of why the NY Post is just a rag.