Luis Ulacia Álvarez
- Bats Left,Throws Right
- Height 5' 8" , Weight 161 lb.
Luis Ulacia won two Gold Medals and one Silver Medal as one of the most decorated baseball players. The longtime leadoff or #2 man for the Cuban national team, Ulacia was often overshadowed by his harder-hitting teammates like Antonio Pacheco, Omar Linares and Orestes Kindelan. He began his career at shortstop but spent the bulk of it in the outfield, a la Robin Yount.
Ulacia debuted in Cuban league play in 1982 for Camagüey. His first tournament on the international stage was the 1986 Central American and Caribbean Games, in which he hit .469 and led all players with five doubles. In the 1986 Amateur World Series, he batted .333. He led the 1986-1987 Selective Series in average (.384). In the 1987 Intercontinental Cup, he hit .289. Ulacia then batted .406 in the 1987 Pan American Games.
Ulacia led the 1987-1988 Serie Nacional with 26 steals and led the eastern division with a .427 average. In the 1988 Baseball World Cup, he hit .349/.391/.488 with 14 runs in 11 games. He struggled in the Gold Medal game, going 0 for 3 against Jim Abbott and making an error at short. Cuba still won 4-3, one of their closest calls during his career.
Luis led the 1989 Selective Series with 21 stolen bases. In the 1989 Intercontinental Cup, he hit .385, including a 5-hit game (3 singles, triple, homer) in the semifinal rout of South Korea. Ulacia was 2 for 8 with a triple in the 1990 Baseball World Cup, backing up German Mesa at shortstop. He went one for six in the 1990 Central American and Caribbean Games. He was with Cuba in the 1990 Goodwill Games. His .376 average in the 1990-1991 Serie Nacional led the eastern division. He batted .500 in the 1991 Pan American Games.
He played left field for Cuba in the 1992, going 0 for 5 with a walk, run and RBI as the backup to Ermidelio Urrutia. He did not appear in the Gold Medal game. Ulacia was back in a Cuban uniform in the 1995 Pan American Games, going two for four.
Ulacia won his last batting title in 1995-1996, hitting .421. In the 1996 Olympics, he split right field duties with Rey Isaac and batted .556/.571/1.148 with 10 runs in 6 games. He made two outfield errors, though. He was second in the Atlanta Games in average behind Luigi Carrozza and tied Tadahito Iguchi and Jacque Jones for 4th in hits behind Linares, Kindelan and Yoshitomo Tani. Ulacia also tied Daishin Nakamura for the most steals (3). Hitting second in the Gold Medal game, he went 4 for 5 with 2 doubles, a homer, 3 runs and 2 RBI as Cuba beat Japan in a 13-9 slugfest.
Luis was 5 for 17 with a walk and 5 runs in the 1997 World Port Tournament. In the 1997 Intercontinental Cup, Ulacia batted .343/.400/.514 with 10 runs and 7 RBI in 9 games while stealing 3 bases in 4 tries. He tied Jason Tyner and Brian Oliver for the most steals in the Cup. He joined Chris Magruder and Yoshinobu Takahashi on the All-Tournament outfield. Hitting second in the Gold Medal game, he went 0 for 5 against Koji Uehara and Hitoshi Miyata as Cuba lost a major event for the first time in Ulacia's international career.
During the 2000 Olympics, Ulacia was the starting left fielder for Cuba and hit .306/.342/.361. In the Gold Medal game, he went 0 for 4 with a strikeout from the leadoff slot against Ben Sheets as Cuba failed to take home Gold for the first time ever.
Ulacia's final appearance for Cuba came 15 years after his first, in the 2001 Baseball World Cup. He sure put on a show, hitting .512/.511/.558 with 6 steals (in 9 tries) and 10 runs in 10 games. He led the Cup in average by .050 over Jennry Roa and his 22 hits were four more than runner-up Orlando Hudson. Ulacia was 4th in swipes behind Hirokazu Ibata, Ralph Milliard and Hudson. In the Gold Medal game, he was 2 for 4 with a run from the leadoff slot as Cuba beat the US 5-3. He failed to make the All-Tournament outfield as Yoshinobu Takahashi, Chin-Feng Chen and Mark Budzinski were picked, but Ulacia still got the top honor, being named MVP.
Ulacia retired from Cuban play after the 2001-2002 season.
In 21 seasons in Cuba, Ulacia hit .314/.379/.433 and stole 355 bases, but was caught stealing 218 times. Through 2003-2004, he ranked among the all-time leaders in seasons (tied for 8th), plate appearances (9th), at-bats (6,961, 5th), runs (7th), hits (4th behind Antonio Pacheco, Fernando Sanchez and Omar Linares) and steals (4th).
Overall, Ulacia hit .388 in 409 at-bats in major international events, including a .333 mark in the Intercontinental Cup, .382 in the Olympics, .402 in the Baseball World Cup, .410 in the Pan American Games and .447 in the Central American and Caribbean Games.