All-Star Shane Victorino stays grounded by refusing to forget where he came from
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jul 10, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 10:29 p.m. HST, Aug 05, 2011
PHILADELPHIA » No matter how many All-Star teams he makes, how fat his bank account, or how much success he achieves between the white lines, Shane Victorino will never forget who he is or where he came from.
He says that's the message his parents, Michael Sr. and Joycelin, who spent countless hours working tirelessly in the community for assorted causes, have passed down to him. To do anything less would be doing them a disservice.
"I will never forget where I come from; that's the one thing my parents and I always talk about," said the man from Maui, hours after learning he'd gone on the disabled list with a sprained ligament in his right thumb and would have to miss Tuesday's All-Star Game in Arizona.
"Just because I'm a World Series champ, a two-time All-Star or a three-time Gold Glove winner and have all these accolades, doesn't mean act like that towards people," the St. Anthony alum said.
Maybe that's why the Phillies center fielder has become the people's choice, the first player voted twice to the All-Star Game through Final Vote, which chooses the last player on each roster. Maybe that's why he's become such a fixture here in the community, where his Shane Victorino Foundation has been the springboard for the renovation of a Boys and Girls Club in the inner city, in addition to coordinating other philanthropic endeavors. Maybe that's why the Flyin' Hawaiian has been able to make the transformation from a 2005 Rule 5 draft pick after failing to stick with both the Padres and Dodgers, to a mainstay in the four-time defending NL East champion Phillies' lineup.
"It's nice to be recognized by the fans in that situation," said the 30-year-old Victorino, who'll make the trip to Phoenix even though he won't be playing, hitting at a .303 clip, with nine homers, 34 RBIs and 13 steals. "But you have to say it's been a team effort across baseball."
As for going to Arizona simply to tip his cap as a way of saying "thanks" to the 9.2 million who voted him in, Victorino doesn't mind that one bit. His parents will be there, for one thing, plus he'll have a better idea what to expect this time around.
"The first time around you're blinded not knowing exactly what's going on," admitted Victorino, who wound up starting in center field that night in St. Louis, singling off his current teammate Roy Halladay, before later striking out. "Now you understand the magnitude of things.
"I was surprised by the amount of people on the field and in the building. The media, since you have 30 different team markets being represented. Way more than the World Series."
One thing that will be different this time for Shane will be sharing the All-Star stage with a fellow Hawaii high school graduate, Seattle Mariners closer Brandon League, a Saint Louis alum.
"Growing up I didn't know him," says Victorino, who's never had the chance to face League. "We played each other in the minors a few times.
"It'll be very interesting to have Brandon and me there at the same All-Star Game. Our families will probably hang out."
As for the next generation of Hawaii players, Victorino, in the midst of a three-year, $22 million contract, has already talked to Cardinals first-round pick Kolten Wong.
"I spoke to him a few times since he was drafted," said Victorino, one of five Phillies headed to Arizona, along with pitchers Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels and third baseman Placido Polanco. "My advice to him is just, 'Enjoy. You're definitely in a good position being a first-round pick.'
"To me, when you get an opportunity, it doesn't matter where you're from -- California, Florida, Texas, Hawaii. If you have a passion for the game you're gonna be successful."
He just as easily could've been talking about himself, a player who bounced around the game -- up and down from the majors to the minors -- until finding his niche here. Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard says that's a credit to Victorino's perseverance coupled with being in the right spot.
"He's just adapted as he's gotten more experience," said Howard, Victorino's teammate going back to the minor leagues. "For Shane it's just a matter of getting the opportunity and going out and doing what he does best.
"But also being in this environment kind of allows you to succeed -- from the front office to the coaching staff all the way down here to the locker room. They try to keep things loose, to allow us to go out and keep the pressure off.
"As far as his popularity, Shane's definitely got a little politician in him. But he's a good person. Very charismatic and always involved with the fans."
Whatever Victorino does off the field, though, noble as it is, isn't foremost on the minds of Phillies fans. Their team has the best record in baseball, 56-34, leading the NL East by 2 games over the stubborn Braves, following Saturday's 4-1 loss.
Victorino, after a slow start that included a three-week stint on the DL, has been an integral part of their charge, boosting his average 44 points above 2010's disappointing .259. He hopes to return to the lineup July 19, the first day he's eligible.
"Arguably, everyone would say it's World Series or bust. But during the season you don't think that way. You stay focused and worry about one game at a time. If it's meant to be and it happens that you're there, then you're there."
Another lesson from home. While his No. 8 uniform may say Phillies and he's strongly tied to the community here, he doesn't need to click his ruby slippers together three times to know where he's from.
And it's definitely not Kansas.