Hit King LUIS POLONIA – The Aguilas’ Atomic Ant Breaks Dominican Hit Record
Luis Polonia passed Miguel Dilone as the Dominican League’s all-time leader in hits last night. Considering the league’s official website calls Polonia “la Hormiga Atomica” (roughly the Atomic Ant), I was tempted to say he crawled to the top of the leaderboard, but anybody who’s seen Little Looie race around the basepaths knows that wouldn’t really be accurate.
Besides, he wasted little time piling up three hits yesterday in classic Polonia fashion: a broken bat single in the first, then a roller through the right side, and finally a line drive up the middle for the record breaker. Polonia’s historic hit came off left-handed reliever Joe Thatcher, who’s spent parts of the last two seasons with the San Diego Padres.
As for Polonia, he hasn’t been spotted in the majors since 2000, when he notched a single in two at bats to help the New York Yankees win their third straight World Series. He also earned a ring with the 1995 Braves, and batted .293 overall in 12 big league seasons from 1987-2000. He was a pesky singles hitter who finished in the American League’s top five in stolen bases for three consecutive years in the early nineties. He often wore uniform number 22, which one former teammate joked represented the title of the book about hitting 100 fly balls in Polonia’s direction. Catch 22. Unfortunately, he’s probably better remembered in the USA for an incident with an underage girl on a road trip to Milwaukee early in his career, but at home in the Dominican he’s baseball royalty.
Consider he’s been a .308 hitter for the last 25 years (!) for the Aguilas Cibaenas, one of the baseball mad nation’s two most popular teams. No one in league history has hit more triples, and Polonia is likely to shatter another of Dilone’s career marks in a few days by becoming the circuit’s all-time leader in runs scored. Since Polonia first suited up for the Aguilas, they’ve won 12 of their league record 20 Dominican League championships and were runners up for five more. Polonia and the Aguilas show no signs of slowing down. His three hits last night raised his batting average over .360 and helped his teammates move into a first place tie with their ninth win in 10 tries!
Dethroned hit king Miguel Dilone is worth a mention as well. Like Polonia, he made his mark in the black and yellow colors of the Aguilas as a weak-armed oufielder with speed to burn and an affinity for stroking singles. Dilone also spent a dozen years in the majors where, despite an alleged attitude problem, he batted .265 and stole 267 bases. His best season came with the Cleveland Indians in 1980 when he hit .340 and stole 61 bags. One Dominican League record of Dilone’s that seems safe is his stolen base mark. Polonia is in second place in that category, but a whopping 215 steals behind!
by MALCOLM ALLEN
DOMINICAN LEAGUE ALL-TIME HIT LEADERS (through 11/15/08)
878 – Luis Polonia
877 – Miguel Dilone
865 – Jesus Alou
822 – Rafael Batista
800 – Manny Mota
768 – Winston Llenas
689 – Matty Alou
684 – Pedro Gonzalez