Grapefruiting

Shane Victorino back in a Phillies uniform



Nearly six years since leaving the Phillies, the Flyin’ Hawaiian returns to help out at spring training. (Matthew Crowne/WikiCommons)

Six and a half years have passed since the last time ‘The Flyin’ Hawaiian’ pulled on the uniform of the Philadelphia Phillies on July 29, 2012 at Turner Field in Atlanta.

The aging Phillies dropped a 6-2 decision to their NL East Division rivals that afternoon. The defeat left them 12.5 games behind the second-place Braves and 16.5 off the pace being set by the first-place Washington Nationals.

The late Roy Halladay had taken the mound for the start that day. He would strikeout seven and walk just one over six innings and leave with the Phillies trailing by just 3-2 before the bullpen surrendered three in the 7th inning to break the game open.

The first five batters in the Phillies lineup that day were familiar to fans: Jimmy Rollins, Victorino, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz. But all were between 31-33 years of age, beginning to push past their glorious prime years together.

Two days later, Victorino was one of the first to go in what would become a major rebuilding program that would last for more than a half-decade. He was dealt on July 31 to the Los Angeles Dodgers for pitchers Josh Lindblom and Ethan Martin, as well as a player-to-be-named who turned out to be in infield prospect named Stefan Jarrin.

On that same day, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr dealt away another starting outfielder, Hunter Pence, signalling a surrender of his team for the season. The club would actually heat up, pulling within three games of the second NL Wildcard with 11 to play. But that was as close as they would get.

Victorino became the left fielder for the Dodgers, stealing 15 bases over the final third of the season for a club that finished in second place in the NL West, two games off that final Wildcard pace and just five ahead of the 81-81 Phillies.

That off-season, Victorino became a free agent for the first time. He signed a two-year, $26 million deal with the Boston Red Sox that would turn into three seasons when the Beantowners picked up his $13 million option for 2015.

In his first season with Boston, Victorino played right field. He would win his fourth career Gold Glove Award at age 33 and receive AL MVP votes as the Red Sox captured the World Series championship.

In the clinching 6-1 victory in Game 6 over the Saint Louis Cardinals, Victorino knocked in four of the runs with two hits, including a two-out, bases-clearing double to open the scoring in the bottom of the 3rd inning.

The following 2014 season was injury-riddled, with Victorino playing in just 30 games before succumbing to back surgery on August 5th. He returned in 2015 and again lost time due to a late-April hamstring injury. On July 27, 2015 the Red Sox dealt him to the Los Angeles Angels for infielder Josh Rutledge.

Victorino signed with the Chicago Cubs prior to the 2016 season and went to spring training with them. He was released at the end of spring training, but signed a minor league deal to remain with the team. He was then released by the Cubs on May 23, 2016 and that was the end of his playing career.

Last July 3rd, Victorino formally announced his retirement from Major League Baseball. On August 3rd he signed a one-day contract with the Phillies in order to retire with the team for whom he had enjoyed his greatest successes.

Victorino was originally a 6th round draft pick of the Dodgers back in 1999 out of St. Anthony High School in Wailuki, Hawaii. Three years later he was left exposed in the Rule 5 Draft and was selected by the San Diego Padres. He broke into the big-leagues with San Diego for a 36-game cup of coffee at the start of the 2003 season.

On May 23, 2003 the Padres returned him to the Dodgers, realizing that they couldn’t carry him on their big-league roster all season. The Dodgers again exposed Victorino to the Rule 5 Draft in the next off-season, and on December 13, 2004 the Phillies pounced on him.

He would make his name in Philadelphia. In 2006, Victorino split his time between all three outfield positions. Then in 2007 he became the everyday right fielder as the Phillies won the first of what would become five consecutive NL East crowns.

When Aaron Rowand left in free agency, Victorino took over in center field. He would be the starter there for the Phillies for most of the next five years, until his 2012 trade to the Dodgers. He won three straight NL Gold Glove Awards from 2008-10, and was an NL All-Star in both 2009 and 2011. He received NL MVP votes in each of the latter two seasons.

And, of course, he was leaping on top of a pile of teammates as the Phillies won the second World Series championship in franchise history on October 29, 2008. Earlier in the month his grand slam home run off Milwaukee Brewers ace C.C. Sabathia had been one of the key hits in that entire postseason.

Victorino continues to call his native Hawaii as home for much of the year. His father, Mike Victorino, was elected as the Mayor of Maui last November. Back in November, Robert Collias at The Maui News asked Victorino what has become his focus in retirement:

Watching my children grow up, getting that opportunity as a father, to not have to worry about that 9-to-5 grind every day, but to have an opportunity to help be a part of their lives and their upbringing, basically be there for moral support.

And now, for the first time since he pulled his uniform off on that late-July day nearly six years ago, Victorino will don a full Phillies uniform and take the field. He joins a long list of former Phillies players who have helped the team prepare this season including former 2008 World Series-winning teammates Jimmy Rollins and Chad Durbin.

When it was first announced back in mid-February that Victorino would be helping out at spring training this year, Tim Klepac at 12up described well what the Phillies hope to get from him: “Victorino’s relaxing demeanor is infectious and the front office hopes that will carry into their clubhouse in March.

 

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