By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
Luis Pollorena is listed as a left-handed pitcher on Mississippi State’s roster. That’s because there’s not enough room to list all of his other roles.
Just this season, the 5-foot-7 junior has been a starting pitcher, relief pitcher, outfielder, pinch runner, water boy and wig wearer, among other things. He redefines the term utility player.
“We really cherish Luis,” coach John Cohen said. “He’s the ultimate teammate. He’s a guy who’ll do whatever he can to help us win a ballgame.”
Pollorena is just doing what he was taught. His father, Oscar, coached him from 3 years old up until high school. One thing the elder Pollorena instilled was a willingness to help out, no matter how menial the task.
“He said, whatever you have to do, it doesn’t matter, even if nobody sees it, you know what’s going on behind the scenes, and the team will see it,” Pollorena said.
Pollorena’s primary role is as a relief pitcher. In 10 appearances – one start – he is 2-0 with a 1.86 ERA. But the Laredo, Texas, native has also had to help out elsewhere in the field.
For instance, he pinch-ran for Trey Porter in the 11th inning of last Thursday’s game versus Tennessee. Pollorena scored the winning run on Mitch Slauter’s sacrifice fly.
He also spent part of one game in center field and has one at-bat this season. It’s not foreign territory for Pollorena, who came to MSU last year from Marion (Ala.) Military Institute as a dual-position player.
Injuries and youthfulness have forced Cohen to get Pollorena ready for other duties. His athleticism and experience around the diamond make him an easy choice for such a role.
Plus, he’s willing to do whatever is needed, even if it’s fetching Slauter water between innings or, as was the case Saturday, donning a wig in the dugout as the Bulldogs tried to pull out an extra-innings win (they did).
“It’s not just in baseball; he says in whatever it is,” Pollorena said of his dad. “Coach Cohen has touched base on it, too. If we’re walking down the street, you see trash, pick it up.
“Even though we’re athletes, it’s just a title, it’s not a given. We’re just blessed enough to be able to play this game. … Whatever we can do in this world to be able to contribute to this world and be able to say we did something.”
Pollorena’s father has his own construction company back in Laredo. He goes in at 6 am. and comes home at 8 p.m. That’s where Pollorena’s work ethic comes from, although he’s not keen on following Oscar’s career path.
The Bulldogs, who enter this weekend’s series with Ole Miss at 25-16 overall, 8-10 in SEC play, collectively have the same attitude as Pollorena. They often talk about the team-first mentality, and Pollorena embodies it as well as anybody.
“This ball club has just come together so much,” he said, “and that’s pretty much what we preach.”