One after the other, more than half of the Waipio Little League baseball team had the same response.
"And my favorite baseball player is Shane Victorino."
The man whose name was repeated again and again during Waipio’s pre-game introductions on television met the team yesterday, sharing insight and giving motivation to the 11- and 12-year olds who captured the hearts of Hawaii back in August during a run to the United States championship of the Little League World Series.
Victorino spoke to the kids at Zippy’s in Waipio as part of a promotion that has helped raise $25,000 for the Shane Victorino Foundation, which will go to the construction of a batting cage at nearby Kanoelani Field.
"Watching these kids and watching what they did makes me feel real good about what we’re doing," Victorino said. "It’s great to have the opportunity to give back to the community and give these kids the inspiration to play baseball for a long time."
Victorino established his charity earlier this year to provide opportunities to under-served children in both Hawaii and Philadelphia.
SHANE VICTORINO CELEBRITY DINNER AND GOLF CLASSIC
» When: Saturday
» Where: Four Seasons Resort, Maui
» Celebrity participants include: ESPN’s Neil Everett; Philadelphia’s Mike Sweeney and Jamie Moyer; Seattle’s Brandon League and Jason Vargas; Toronto’s Lyle Overbay; New York’s Chad Gaudin; Kansas City’s Kila Ka’aihue and Kanekoa Texeira
» Info: shanevictorinofoundation.org
The Waipio team might not fall within those guidelines, but Victorino felt a special bond with the little leaguers.
"I know this area has become a hotbed for baseball players, so I thought this would be a good place to start something like this," said Victorino, who is also supporting a Boys & Girls Club on his home island of Maui.
Like many in Hawaii, the Philadelphia Phillies outfielder watched as much of the Waipio team as he could.
As well as they performed on the field, the biggest gratitude Victorino felt came from all the kids who mentioned him as their favorite baseball player.
"In their own way, they are famous now for playing baseball on the national stage and for me to be the guy idolized by them means a lot," Victorino said.
It wasn’t a clean sweep for Victorino as he had to go up against David Ortiz, Nick Swisher and Joe Mauer as some of the other favorites.
Ty DeSa, Waipio’s starting first baseman, went with Mauer, but only to try to switch things up, of course.
"I was going to say (Victorino), but everyone else was saying him, and I had to be different," DeSa said.
DeSa was one of the few returnees from the 2009 Waipio team that didn’t make it to the regional tournament. Back in July, DeSa was focused solely on trying to win states, with no idea what was about to take place.
"We lost in states the year before, so that’s all we were focused on," DeSa said. "We just took it game by game and never tried to look ahead."
Victorino, who recently won his third consecutive Gold Glove award, is back in Hawaii for his annual golf tournament held on Maui.
The Shane Victorino Celebrity Dinner and Golf Classic will be held Saturday at the Four Seasons Resort.
A three-sport star in baseball, track and soccer in high school, Victorino has had success at nearly everything he’s played.
Golf, however, is another story.
"I’m not a very good golfer, but I’ll be out there having fun and that’s what it’s all about," Victorino said. "It’s just about going out there, having fun, and supporting the cause."