Only somebody who has lost a loved one can know, really know, the shock and emptiness that slams into your psyche like a sledgehammer.
Sadly, Victorino know this, too. The Phillies centerfielder was caught in an emotional riptide yesterday. Moments after being interviewed on national television, happily answering questions about his stellar performance, he was pulled into the office of travel manager Frank Coppenbarger. There his father, Mike, broke the news that his paternal grandmother had passed away in Hawaii earlier in the day.
Irene Victorino was 82. Mike found out before the game, but kept it from his son until afterward. And we can barely begin to grasp his inner turmoil, proudly cheering what his son was doing on the field, while knowing that real life had cast a pall over the world of fun and games.
The Phillies' fleet centerfielder went from the highest high to the lowest low in moments. That's an unimaginably cruel twist of fate.
It was a mixed-up day for the Phillies family. Manager Charlie Manuel found out before the game that his mother had died. Victorino found out afterward about his grandmother.
In between, the Phillies won a huge baseball game, beating the Dodgers, 8-5, at Citizens Bank Park. They know have a lead of two games to none in the best-of-seven series. And nobody felt like celebrating.
"It's definitely an emotional time," Victorino said, standing in front of his locker after pulling himself together. "We're only guaranteed one thing in life, and that's death . . . It's just tough. You want to talk about it, but you want to stop. But it's about baseball."
The news wasn't a complete surprise. His grandmother had been hospitalized. He had talked to her Thursday night.
"I could tell that she wasn't responding very well," he said.
Even when he tried to talk about the game, his thoughts returned to his grandmother.
In the seventh inning, the Dodgers had runners on second and third with two out when third baseman Casey Blake hit a towering drive toward deepest centerfield. At first, the sellout crowd went deathly silent, fearful that Blake had just tied the score.
Then Victorino put his arm out, indicating that he had a bead on the ball. He kept drifting back, back, and finally jumped to make the catch, just above the padded portion of the wall.
"I just told myself to get back and try to make the catch.I knew I was approaching the wall," he said, a standard baseball answer. Then he added, "Maybe Charlie's mother and my grandmother helped me."
If that was all he did, it would have been a pivotal moment in the game. But he also had a pair of huge at-bats.
In a game that went ugly early and ended up resembling one of those old, western double features that tumble through 3 1/2 hours and include a couple of saloon brawls and a cattle stampede, it might seem odd to single out any two at-bats as being more crucial than others.
Think about it, though.
The Dodgers took the lead in the second. The Phillies came right back to regain the lead in the bottom of the inning, but were still ahead, only 2-1, when Victorino stepped to the plate with runners on second and third and two outs.
If Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley had held it right there, especially after the Phillies had strung together single-double-single-single with an error on centerfielder Matt Kemp thrown in for good measure, he would have had to feel pretty good about limiting the damage.
Except that Victorino singled up the middle to score two more runs as the Phillies extended their lead.
The third inning was almost a carbon copy. The Dodgers scored once in the top of the inning. The Phillies came back in the bottom half to score twice, and had runners on first and third with two away. This time, Victorino stroked a triple, padding the Phils' lead to 8-2.
All of that seemed so distant and unimportant at the end of the night, though.
The Phillies are scheduled to play at Dodgers Stadium tomorrow, Monday and Wednesday. If necessary, Games 6 and 7 would be played in Philadelphia on the following Friday and Saturday.
He wasn't sure whether he'd miss a game.
"I want to be there for my grandmother. I want to be with the team, too, and I think my grandmother would want that," he said, shaking his head.
He might be able to do both if the funeral is scheduled for an off day. If not, a decision must be made. And nobody would criticize him, no matter what he does. Because almost nobody knows what it's like to go through the gut-wrenching ordeal that Shane Victorino went through yesterday. *
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