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StarBulletin.com

Hawaii's hit man


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POSTED: Monday, December 28, 2009

At the beginning of the 2009 Major League Baseball season, it was hard to envision Shane Victorino topping his previous year, which ended with a World Series championship.

But doubting the Maui-born Philadelphia Phillies center fielder has proved to be a mistake time and time again, with 2009 being no different.

Yes, the Phillies lost to the New York Yankees in the World Series, but individually, Victorino again took the next step in becoming arguably the greatest baseball player ever to come out of the island chain.

The 29-year-old was elected to his first All-Star Game this year, getting a record 15.6 million votes from baseball fans to earn the final spot on the National League team.

“;I am so honored and appreciative of the passion that everyone has shown to make this dream come true,”; Victorino told the Associated Press in July. “;Especially with the number of votes cast. It's just unbelievable.”;

The Saint Anthony alumnus set career highs with 181 hits, 39 doubles, 13 triples and 62 RBIs. He added 10 home runs and 25 stolen bases, and scored 102 runs, showing the versatility he has been famous for since his days as a four-sport star in high school.

His hard-hitting style of play helped him instantly become a fan favorite, as evidenced by the All-Star vote. But his newfound celebrity status also got him involved in some of the more bizarre situations of the sports year.

In August Victorino pressed charges against a Cubs fan in Chicago who dumped a cup of beer on him while he made a routine catch in center field.

Then in a preview of the World Series against the Yankees, Victorino's likeness was digitally altered, added onto the body of a cheerleader on the front of the New York Post, with the headline reading, “;The Frillies are coming to town!”;

“;Why would they put me on the cover of the New York Post before the World Series?”; Victorino said in an interview with the Star-Bulletin last month while in Hawaii. “;Obviously, they felt like I was a guy who could potentially do some damage.”;

The Phillies won the National League pennant for the second year in a row, but their bid to repeat as World Series champions fell short in six games.

Victorino had little time to dwell over the loss, as an even bigger moment waited on the horizon. He married longtime girlfriend Melissa, with whom he shares a 2-year-old daughter, in a private ceremony on Maui less than two weeks later.

“;I've been with her for six years, and if anything, it feels like a different kind of a love,”; Victorino said. “;It's a different kind of passion we have toward one another.”;

Victorino was excited about next season's outlook, hoping to get back to the World Series for a third consecutive year. In November he felt that the team would stay relatively intact, but, as is the case in professional sports, things can change at a moment's notice.

Last week the Phillies traded away star left-handed pitcher Cliff Lee but replaced him with ace Roy Halladay and added a couple of valuable prospects.

With Victorino, who at 29 is in the prime of his career, and all-stars Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins packing a powerful offensive punch, the Phillies will once again be favored to stand above the rest in the National League in 2010.