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For duty, honor, and ballpark

Eric A. Polonsky received his Navy promotion at Fenway Park. Eric A. Polonsky received his Navy promotion at Fenway Park. (Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff)
By Maureen Mullen
Globe Correspondent / September 15, 2011

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When Lieutenant Eric Polonsky found out he was being promoted to lieutenant commander after eight years in the Navy, he began to consider venues for the ceremony.

He has been based in Washington for about four years. So, he thought of having the ceremony there.

But Polonsky, a native of Peabody whose family, including his 97-year-old grandmother, Hilda Ozuransky, lives in the area, knew it would be difficult for everyone to travel.

The iconic USS Constitution, the world’s oldest commissioned warship afloat and berthed in Charlestown Navy Yard, is a favored spot for Navy promotions in Greater Boston. But, because Old Ironsides is such a common choice, Polonsky didn’t want to receive his promotion there.

Then, he had a thought: Why not Fenway Park?

It seemed like a natural fit. He grew up a sports fan. Family members were all sports fans. Fenway was a central point for his family and friends. And his brother worked part time for the Red Sox.

Besides, he said, “Who in Boston isn’t a Red Sox fan?’’

“The service is real special, because it’s a great achievement to be selected for a promotion. And from a personal standpoint, I’m looking for increased responsibility,’’ Polonsky said. “And it’s nice to be able to share it with my family. Being in the military, obviously it’s voluntary service, but you’re not living as close to your family as you would like. So they don’t always get to share your professional or personal joys as much as you’d like. So to be able to get home and share that with them is a really great thing.”

Rear Admiral Eleanor Valentin, Polonsky’s superior officer, was going to be in New England at the same time as the Aug. 30 ceremony.

So on a sparkling late-summer morning at Fenway Park, with about two dozen family and friends - grandmother Ozuransky included - watching, Polonsky was promoted to his new rank.

“It made me happy to see how proud they were of me,’’ Polonsky said.

He was also happy to see their reactions to the ceremony. One member of his party, Joseph Cronan, 85, was impressed at meeting an admiral . . . a female admiral. A Coast Guard veteran who served at sea during World War II, he greeted Admiral Valentin with a hug and a peck on the check. Then Cronan, who’s originally from Springfield and now lives in Grafton, couldn’t wait to get back and tell his buddies he had kissed an admiral.

Before Polonsky’s promotion, his fondest memory of Fenway was of a game almost 30 years ago, his first Red Sox game.

“My dad took me, I think in ’84, ’85. I was pretty young,’’ he said. “Before the game, they were playing Cleveland, during warm-ups, I don’t remember which player, but he pointed to me in the crowd and threw me a ball as he was coming off the field. And that was pretty cool as a young kid. It was a Cleveland player. I’m not sure who, but it was still pretty cool.’’

It still is.

Polonsky, 32, a 1996 graduate of Peabody Veterans Memorial High School and a 2000 graduate of Brandeis University, also received a master’s in business administration from Clark University in 2002. He now lives in Burke, Va., and works at Navy Medicine Headquarters in Washington, D.C. He still has that ball, which he eventually had signed by his favorite players, pitchers Bob Stanley and Dennis “Oil Can’’ Boyd. The ball is kept at the home of his parents, Ted and Harriet Polonsky, in Peabody.

But now that baseball memory will have to take second honors. Polonsky has promoted his latest visit to Fenway Park to the top of his Fenway memory list.

Maureen Mullen may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @maureenamullen.