Friday, May 3, 2013

Alumni Food-Issue Friday: 1985 Burger King/Huntsville A's Luis Polonia

Ten years before joining the Braves, Luis Polonia was tearing up the Southern League in only his second season of professional baseball. Fleet of foot, little Luis would finish the 1985 season with 18 triples and 39 stolen bases for the Stars (A's AA team), while hitting a very respectable .289. 

Arriving in the Majors in 1987, Polonia would continue to hit well during his twelve year big league career. And while he did retire with 321 stolen bases in his career, he was also caught stealing 145 times- thrice leading the league in that category. 

The Atlanta Years: Take One 
Atlanta acquired Polonia from the Yankees for minor league outfielder Troy Hughes on August 11, 1995. He wouldn't make much of an impact over the final month of the regular season ( 53 at-bats in 28 games), but  he would be a valuable bat off the bench during the post-season as Atlanta made a successful push for the city's first professional championship. During the NLDS, NLCS, and World Series, Polonia would go 6-19 with a double, homer, 7 RBI, and 2 steals. Getting the start in left-field during game 5 of the World Series, Luis took Orel Hershisher deep for the only post-season home run of his career.

The Atlanta Years: Redux 
Having been granted free agency following the '95 World Series, Polonia signed with Seattle, who would release him towards the end of spring training. Baltimore would then sign the thirty-two year old veteran three weeks later, but would release him on August 12th. Atlanta signed Luis five days later and worked  him into 22 games at the end of the regular season- getting him 33 plate appearances (13-31, 2 RBI, 1 SB). Making the post-season roster once again, the second time around wasn't the success that the previous season had been. Playing in all three of the Braves post-season series, Polonia would go a combined 0-10 with 4 strikeouts and 1 caught stealing. In his final at-bat as a Brave, Luis pitch-hit for Jeff Blauser and  struck out for the second out in the bottom of the ninth of game 6 of the 1996 World Series. Two batters later, Mark Lemke popped out to third baseman Charlie Hayes to seal the Braves collapse after leading the Series two games to none.

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