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StarBulletin.com

Valley Isle baseball champion comes home


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POSTED: Thursday, November 20, 2008

LAHAINA » More than 400 people jammed a shopping center yesterday to hear local athlete-turned-World Series hero Shane Victorino and get autographs on his photographs, bats with his name and newspaper pages featuring him.

Youths as well as adults cheered as Victorino made his first appearance on his home island of Maui at the Lahaina Cannery Mall.

Boys occasionally chanted, "Go Phillies," during the autograph session.

Victorino said he was grateful to Maui residents for their support throughout his career.

"I really appreciate it," he said. "You guys may not be there in body, but I know you're there in spirit cheering me on."

Victorino advised youths to stay in school, study and take advantage of travel opportunities.

Victorino, a Rawlings Golden Glove 2008 winner for his work in center field and who batted in 11 runs during the National League playoffs, told the youngsters that he was just like them years ago.

Victorino, a St. Anthony High School graduate, said there were times when he was young when he did not want to study and do his homework.

"My mom didn't let me go outside to play," he said. "You guys have to study hard, get good grades. Without those things, you guys aren't going to get anything in life. You aren't going to graduate from high school."

Arnie Gonzalez, 11, who plays Little League baseball, said he was happy to meet his baseball idol and hopes to be like Victorino one day.

"He's a really good player," Gonzalez said.

Maui resident Brad Gross, who once lived in Philadelphia, said he was happy to see Victorino making appearances and serving as a role model.

"I think that this is a great opportunity for the young people of Maui to see somebody who became a big star," he said.

Gross said he noticed Victorino had a lot of hustle and determination on the field several years ago and was happy to see him become a success.

"This guy has a lot of heart," he said.

Kahului resident Susan Silva said she brought her grandson Justin to get an autograph and felt bringing youths to such an event was important.

"It's helping our kids get more into sports," she said.

Dustin Quick, in charge of sports activities for the Boys and Girls Club of Lahaina, said they came too late to get autographs.

But Quick said the youths were just happy to be at the event and to see a person from Maui who has succeeded in sports.

"He represent the youths of Maui," he said.

Leighton Halaapiapi, 11, of Lahaina said he thinks Victorino is "awesome."

"He works hard," he said. "It's cool to see someone from Hawaii actually making it in Major League Baseball."