The Boston Red Sox find themselves in Major League Baseball’s World Series this 2013 season, and Shane Patrick Victorino is one player who has helped them get there. Earlier this summer, we sat down with the right fielder who, as a kid in Wailuku, Maui, hoped one day to go pro.
When the Los Angeles Dodgers drafted you straight out of St. Anthony’s High School in 1999, you were just 18 years old, but playing in the Majors eluded you for another four years. Did you ever get discouraged?
I’ll admit it was a little tough, and I struggled on and off the field. There were times when I called my dad and said I wanted to come home but he always encouraged me to stay positive and told me that it would happen. Very few players from Hawaii make it to the Majors; what made you think you could? It was a childhood dream, and I was determined to make it reality. I was fortunate because I got a lot of support from my family and friends. There are also other players from Hawaii who have helped pave the way for guys coming up in the minor leagues. Everyone thinks we just surf, but obviously we can play ball, too.
What are some of your first memories of playing in the Major Leagues?
I remember the crowds and competing against guys whom I used to read about in the sports section. I was playing for the San Diego Padres, and it seemed like forever before I got my first hit. I was thrilled to finally make it to the big leagues.
After playing 36 games for the Padres, you were returned to the Dodgers and spent another two seasons in their farm system before being drafted, under Rule 5, by the Philadelphia Phillies. Did you ever think you were going to get another chance to play in the majors?
All I could do was hope and stay positive. Then everything started working. I was hitting well. I was fielding well and I finally got the call-up to the Phillies.
During your days with the Phillies, the City of Brotherly Love embraced you as one of their native sons. How did you react to all the attention?
The fans were great to me. I remember walking around and people calling me the “Flyin’ Hawaiian” and “Muscles from Maui.” In 2006, the Phillies honored me with “Shane Victorino Day” with hula figurines (laughs), and they even flew my dad in from Maui for the game. It was a lot of fun, and I have a lot of good memories of my days as a Philly.
After eight seasons in Philadelphia you were traded back to the Dodgers. What was it like going back to where your professional career started?
I missed Philly, but I was also closer to my parents who reside on Maui, and my wife and kids who live in Vegas. In the end, I was still doing what I love doing best: playing baseball.
Did you ever think that you would play for the Boston Red Sox?
I never thought Boston would be the team I would end up on. It’s such a storied franchise, and I’m thrilled to be wearing [No.] 18 for this team. I’m coming here with an open mind, and I’ll be picking the minds of the other players.
You’ve earned three Gold Glove Awards, played in two All-Star Games, captured a World Series championship and won the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award among many others. What’s next?
Hopefully another World Series ring! That’s the ultimate goal for any baseball player heading into a new season.
The nickname “Flyin’ Hawaiian” seems appropriate given your level of energy and intensity on the field. But are you still having fun after all these years?
Absolutely. There are more than 150 games each season, and I give it my all each time I step on the field. And it’s still fun.