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Patrick Lucy switches from pitching baseballs to pitching avocados

He was good enough on the mound to help take the University of San Diego to its first back-to-back conference championships and to spend a year in the pros before his elbow gave out.

Now Patrick Lucy, 24, is on the sales desk at Del Rey Avocado Co. Inc. in Fallbrook, CA, pitching avocados to buyers and learning the business from the ground up.

The son of Bob Lucy, a partner in Del Rey Avocado, Mr. Lucy is the second member of the second generation to join the company this year.

Jessica Hunter, 25, the daughter of Bob Siemer, another partner in the company, is now working with her father in the field department.

"Hopefully down the road, when my dad and Bob Siemer and Reuben [Hofshi, the third partner] decide that they don't want to work anymore, maybe Jessica and I and whoever else will be running [the business]," Mr. Lucy said. "That is probably going to be a few years.

Meanwhile, he is intent on learning everything he can about the avocado business.

"I'm under sales, but I am actually coming in to learn all of the different facets -- farming, running the packinghouse and all of that type of stuff, so I know everything that is going on, he said.

He added that his father is encouraging that approach. "He figures if you know everything, you will be a better salesman. I am going to learn all of the different parts of the produce business for avocados.

Mr. Lucy grew up around the avocado business and it was "something I was always interested in [while] growing up, he said. "My dad, when he started in the business, was developing avocado groves. Some of my first memories were going out in the groves and riding on the ATVs.

During high school, he spent a couple of summers working in the packinghouse doing such jobs as stocking the boxes on the stack line.

Mr. Lucy attended the University of San Diego, graduating in May 2004 with degrees in history and communications. He also played baseball for USD. He began playing organized baseball at about age six, and "I fell in love with it, he said. Through age 13, he played on various local and traveling teams. Then "I broke my elbow in the eighth grade pitching. I pulled a piece of bone off. The injury took a year-and-a-half to heal, so he didn't play again until high school.

The summer before his senior year he hit a pretty good growth spurt and also "really hit the weight room, and that fall his pitching record was so impressive that he got a scholarship to USD. His college baseball career was also interrupted by an elbow injury, which required surgery. But in his final two years, his pitching helped the team win two successive conference championships. "That was probably my biggest accomplishment in college athletics, he said.

The following year, he signed as a free agent with the St. Paul Saints of the Northern League, and played one season. "At that point, my elbow started to bother me a little bit more, he said. "I just felt it was time to stop, because I didn't want to go through another surgery or hurt my arm permanently. I probably could have pitched another two or three years if I wanted, but I just felt like I wanted to get into the business world.

He worked in sales for a medical supply company for a year before joining Del Rey.

Mr. Lucy hasn't completely given up baseball, however. He is now doing some coaching at his old high school, Fallbrook High.

He also has a new passion: golf. "I play about once a week, he said. "I would probably play every day if I could.