Shane Shines on the Field and on the Track;
BY JACK HEATH
On Sunday, September 30 the Phillies clinched the National League East Championship and their first trip to the National League Playoffs since 1993. Many of the Phillies players said that one of the keys to the Phillies season was a bunt by Shane Victorino a few days before against Atlanta Braves ace John Smoltz that had propelled the Phillies to a 4-0 lead. Victorinos 20-foot bunt was the key hit and the catalyst in a must-win victory over the Braves as the Phillies closed on the faltering Mets. Victorino celebrated the Phillies improbable comeback--down 7 games to the Mets with 17 games to play in September by squirting the fans with a fire hose. They didnt seem to mind. The story of how Victorino went from a small school in a small town in Hawaii to one of the most popular members of a championship Phillies team is a story every bit as inspiring and unexpected as the Phillies magical march to the Playoffs this season.
Many of us have had a coach or parent or friend tell us that running would lead to greater things. For Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino this is literally true. Running led Shane Victorino to the Big Leagues. This year five ft. 9 in, 180-pound Victorino led the Phillies with 10 assists and 34 stolen as well as leading the Phillies to one of their most exciting seasons in at least 14 years--since the exciting 1993 team. The 26-year-old Victorino grew up in a tight-knit family in an unusual place for a baseball player?Wailuku Hawaii. In fact, Shane is only the second Hawaiian born in Maui (Tony Rego, 1924 St Louis Browns) to make the major leagues. The first Hawaiian player to make the Majors was Honolulu Johnnie Williams, a pitcher who had a cup of Kona with the Detroit Tigers in 1914, appearing in only four games.
Shanes mother, Joycelyn, explains: Shane running track was directly responsible for him getting drafted. He won the 100, 200, and 400 in the Hawaiian State Track Championships. It was the first time he had run the 400 and he was only entered because a teammate couldnt run that day. I remember looking at the starting line of the 400 and thinking, my little Shane, what is he in for here? He was smaller than everyone else in the field and has never run this distance before. Coming around the final turn he was the first one and he had a big lead. Victorino flashed through that 400 in 50.35.
Shane, who led the major leagues in assists (throwing out a runner from the outfield) for much of the season, joked with writer Jayson Stark that he developed his strong arm throwing coconuts in Maui. Shane did not throw the javelin in high school but one cant help think that with his strong arm he would have won that event as well.
Ironically, Shanes father, Michael, didnt play baseball, but basketball, growing up: I was pretty busy on the farm in Wailuku but being tall for an Hawaiian (a shade over six ft.) I did play basketball for the University of Hawaii in Maui and I was the center.
At one tournament I bumped into Robert Parish the seven-foot Celtic great who was playing for Centenary College of Louisiana. He asked me who our center was and when I said me I could see the shocked look on his face! Michael Victorino is now a councilman in Wailuku.
Joycelyn recalls the closeness of Shane and his brother, Michael Jr., growing up: They are four-and-a-half years apart but are as close as twins. When one is going through something the other one feels it too. They are very close.
Because of his speed and his propensity to sometimes bowl over opposing players Victorino progressed through the Dodgers and Padres systems earning his first nickname the Maui Masher. His dad recalls Shane running over a first baseman on a close play at first. The first baseman looked around first for Shane who was already standing on third.
From the Dodgers, Shane made his way to the Phillies first as a Rule 5 draftee and finally as a starting right fielder. This year Shane had a bobble hip doll giveaway in his honor. (The hula doll features Victorino in a traditional hula costume with bare feet, a grass skirt, holding a ukulele, and flashing the shaka or hang-loose signShane said that he liked the doll and it was a fairly good facsimile.) Fittingly, Victorino sent the crowd of 44,000 people home deliriously happy with a walk-off home run on his day to win the game. Shane also managed to give the shaka sign to his teammates before crossing home plate for the winning run.
The high-energy Victorino, who always steps up to bat at Citizens Bank Park to the rousing tune of Bob Marleys Buffalo Soldiers took time out to talk to Runners Gazette before a recent home game at Citizens Bank Park.
SV: I grew up in Wailuku, on the island of Maui Hawaii. Its a small plantation town in Wailuku. I went to school in Wailuku Elementary school then to St Anthonys High School, a small Catholic high school.
JH: What sports did you and your brother Michael play growing
JH: When did you realize you might become a major league player?
Was it a goal of yours as a kid?
JH: How (and when) did you first get involved with track?
What events did you do?
JH: What have your parents taught you about sports?
JH: You set the Hawaiian state 100-meter record in 1999. An
editor at Track and Field News said you were one of the top high
school track men in the country--which other events and times
did you run?
JH: How instrumental was running track in starting your professional
JH: Whats the longest distance youve ever run?
JH: How much do you run (miles a day) pre-season and during
JH: Do you run on the roads or at the ballpark during the
JH: Do you think you may be interested in running some 5K
or 10K races some day?
JH: What are some of your goals for this season?
JH: If you had to pick 3 of your teammates (besides yourself)
to round out a 4 x 100 meter Phillies relay team who would they
JH: Can you tell us about your favorite Hawaiian food?
JH: What do you miss the most from Hawaii while playing in
JH: Many baseball players and runners are superstitious before
their games/races. Do you have any superstitions?
JH: How does your dad like being a councilman in Wailuku so
JH: As a track coach I hate to see players dive for first
in a foot race to the bag. It seems to me be a lot faster to
run through the bag (or runners would be diving at the finish
of the 100 meters) Do you agree?
Shane, Heres hoping you, your family, and the Phillies have only Pomaika`I (good luck) and Olakino Maika'I (good health)!
A very special thanks to John Brazer of the Phillies, Brad Sherman the Sports Editor of the Maui News, the Maui News, and the Victorino family for their kind assistance.