MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL
COURTESY PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
Shane Victorino had a bobble-head doll in his likeness made this season.
Victorino making a name for himself in Philadelphia
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Like the island boys who have landed spots on Major League Baseball rosters before him, Philadelphia's Shane Victorino wants to be a hero for the local kids who dream of playing in the show some day.
It took awhile for the Maui boy to find a permanent home in the major leagues, but ever since the Philadelphia Phillies gave him an opportunity to play every day, Victorino works hard to make sure no one questions that decision.
The St. Anthony High graduate leads the National League in assists by an outfielder with nine and is among the leaders in stolen bases as well with 20. He knows if the Phillies are going to challenge in the National League East, he's going to have to perform well from his No. 2 spot in the lineup.
In last night's loss to Detroit, he went 2-for-5, including a two-run shot in the seventh. It was his sixth home run this season.
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PHILADELPHIA » Move over Roger Clemens.
There could be a new Rocket in town.
Philadelphia right-fielder Shane Victorino, a native of Wailuku, Maui, is gunning out runners at the plate at an impressive rate, and gaining attention.
As of last night, Victorino had a National League-leading nine assists. Add a proficiency in stealing bases -- tied for third in the league with 20, including 19 straight -- and it signifies a sizable contribution to a team challenging for top spot in the NL East
"I always take pride in defense," he said before last night's 12-8 loss to Detroit. "Even if I go 0-for-3, I can still change the momentum of a game with good defense."
(The St. Anthony graduate was 2-for-5 last night with his sixth home run, a two-run shot in the seventh).
Victorino admits to becoming a student of the game, and taking time to study film as well as seek advice from veteran players. The 5-foot-9, 180-pounder says paying attention to "little things" pays huge dividends.
"I'm constantly working on defense," he said. "You want to do the little things correctly, like attacking the ball, concentrating on footwork, and positioning your body to be in a position to make a good throw."
The crowd at Citizens Bank Park is clearly aware of his lethal arm.
In last night's game with Detroit, the Tigers loaded the bases with none out against starter Jon Liber in the fifth. Gary Sheffield lifted a drive near the warning track in right field. As Victorino camped under for the catch and prepared to throw, the crowd rose and cheered in anticipation of a throw to the plate.
However, Phillies' first baseman Ryan Howard cut the throw in from Victorino, allowing Tigers pitcher Jeremy Bonderman to score. Had Howard let the ball through, Victorino's victim list might have risen.
Philadelphia leadoff man Shane Victorino has stolen 19 straight bases this season.
In addition to his defense, Victorino's speed on the bases has become an asset. He recently became the first Major League player to have three consecutive multi-steal games since the Indians' Omar Vizquel turned the trick in 1997.
Part of his continuing education deals with measuring offensive skills, reading pitchers and infielders alike, while on base.
"The more he plays, the more he's learning how to play the game," Phillies field manager Charlie Manuel said. "You'll see him starting to chop down on the ball and use his speed there. That way, he can set up the stolen base as well as take extra bases when the situation calls for that."
If the Phillies are going to challenge Atlanta and the New York Mets for postseason participation in the NL East, Victorino and leadoff hitter Jimmy Rollins need to be table setters for Chase Utley, Aaron Rowand and Pat Burrell.
So far, Victorino appears to be doing his part. In the Phillies' first 67 games, he's scored 41 runs (fourth on the team), collected 67 hits (also fourth on the team), and third on the team in walks (24).
All of which is a long way from Maui, where he was a four-sport letter winner at St. Anthony (baseball, soccer, football and track). Victorino won state titles in the 100-, 200-and 400-meter runs in 1999.
Selected by the Dodgers in the sixth round of the 1999 draft, Victorino was subsequently selected by San Diego as a Rule 5 pick in December, 2002. Philadelphia later utilized the Rule 5 rule to acquire Victorino in December, 2004.
Though he now has a permanent residence in Las Vegas, Victorino says he makes it home to Maui a few times a year.
There have been several island baseball players who gained national headlines, Victorino wants to be included.
"I try to speak for those who have gone before me," he pointed out. "Though some guys like have made it like Mike Lum, Jerome Williams, and others, there is always room for local heroes.
"My goal is to be a local hero, and be associated with those guys."