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Polonia's Homer Is Rare, but Well Done for Angels

May 26, 1993|BOB NIGHTENGALE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SEATTLE — Luis Polonia rushed into the clubhouse Tuesday night after the Angels' 6-3 victory over the Seattle Mariners, shed his uniform and grabbed a seat in front of the video recorder.

Then, doing his best impersonation of Mel Allen, he described the magical moment when the ball left his bat, soaring higher and higher. It didn't stop until it reached the first couple of rows beyond the right-field wall, 344 feet from home plate.

Yes, a home run. It was Polonia's first since Aug. 9, 1991--spanning 840 at-bats--and ended one of the longest active droughts in the major leagues.

"You see that, man?" Polonia said, pointing at the video. "Look at that, look at that. Oh, man, did you see that?"

Polonia, who never before had hit a home run at the Kingdome or any other indoor stadium, smiled and said: "I don't know how I got that ball up like that, maybe the wind got it.

"I'm going to make a hundred tapes of this one and send it to all my friends and family back home (in the Dominican Republic) for proof. I'm going to tell them I knew it was going out all the way."

Said Angel Manager Buck Rodgers: "Well, I think I'll send his bat to the hospital for X-rays to check for cork."

Polonia, who entered the game batting only .127 the last month with two extra-base hits and six runs scored, practically duplicated his month in one night. He went two for five with a double, homer, stolen base and three runs scored.

"I really haven't been on my game," Polonia said. "I haven't been myself lately. Maybe now, I'm back."

Proving at least that some things don't change, Angel starter Chuck Finley (4-4) continued his mastery of the Mariners. He gave up seven hits and three runs (two earned) during his seventh consecutive victory over the Mariners, including four in a row at the Kingdome. The Angels have outscored the Mariners, 67-16 in Finley's 10 career victories.

The Angels (23-19), who moved to within one game of the first-place Chicago White Sox, say their biggest concern now is lessening the woes of rookie first baseman J.T. Snow. Snow was benched Tuesday in favor of Stan Javier, who started at first base for the first time since April 14, 1991.

"Right now, he's just lost," Rodgers said of Snow, "absolutely lost. The mind can be a devastating thing to a hitter, and that's what's happening to him, he's in a mental slump.

"We're willing to do anything to get him started."

Snow, who carried the Angels the first three weeks of the season, bringing back memories of Wally Joyner, has now revived memories of Lee Stevens.

Snow, the first three weeks of the season: .407 with six homers and 17 RBIs.

Snow, the last month: .122 with four homers and 10 RBIs.

"I knew that things wouldn't be great the whole year," Snow said. "I mean, I knew it was impossible to hit .400, and I'm not the type of guy who's going to hit 40 or 50 home runs.

"But I didn't think everything would change so quickly, and things would get as bad as this."

Snow, whose batting average has plummeted to .229, with 20 strikeouts in his last 89 at-bats, finally has begun showing his frustration. He struck out in each of his first three at-bats Monday against Erik Hanson, threw his batting helmet against the ground, and marched through the dugout into the clubhouse tunnel.

"You don't want to know what he did in there," one player said. "It wasn't a pretty sight."

No one knows the exact reason for Snow's slump, but his teammates suggest simply that Snow is a victim of his own success.

"I think even his own expectations got too high," infielder Torey Lovullo said, "and now he's tried to live up to him.

"I mean, he was grateful he got off to such a good start, but now he's trying so hard to prove to everybody it wasn't a fluke.

"I really feel for him, because this has been tough on him."

Rodgers, who had a private meeting Tuesday afternoon with Snow, informing him the benching was for his own good, also requested that reporters shy away from Snow for a few days.

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