Inside the Phillies: Victorino's memorable ride in Philly may soon end

Posted: July 23, 2012

The Flyin' Hawaiian ride could soon be over.

In a matter of days, Phillies centerfielder Shane Victorino could be traded to a contending team looking for an uncontrolled ball of energy that, at its best, can ignite an offense and agitate an opponent, and, at its worst, irritate a manager and fans.

It would make a lot of sense for general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. to deal Victorino before the July 31 deadline. Talks about a contract extension with the centerfielder never really got off the ground, and with his free agency pending, he's the kind of player who is typically dealt at this time of year.

Get what you can for him now and start putting together the best possible team for 2013.

That's the cold and callous business of baseball.

Even if Victorino is sent elsewhere, it will never negate the lasting memories he has created as an integral part of the Phillies' core that has won five division titles, two National League pennants, and a World Series title. In many ways, the Flyin' Hawaiian ride was the most entertaining of them all because it came out of nowhere.

Taken as a Rule 5 draft selection from the Los Angeles Dodgers in December 2004, Victorino gave the Phillies their money's worth and a whole lot more.

They were lucky the Dodgers declined when the Phillies offered Victorino back to them at the end of spring training in 2005. The Dodgers will forever regret it.

By the end of his first minor-league season, Victorino had run and slugged his way into the team's plans, winning the International League MVP award while hitting .310 with 25 doubles, 16 triples, and 18 home runs at triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

His career in Philadelphia was launched that September, when he batted .294 and showed enough for the Phillies to believe he belonged in the big leagues the following year.

A flood of memories followed, with the most incredible ones coming in October 2008 as the Phillies scripted a story that ended with a long-awaited parade down Broad Street.

Victorino's John Hancock was all over the place.

There was the thrilling grand slam off CC Sabathia in Game 2 of the 2008 National League division series against Milwaukee.

"When I first hit it, I said, 'I've got to get going,' " Victorino said that October day. "As I was running, I looked at [leftfielder Ryan] Braun stop and I was like, 'Wow, did that really just happen?' There was just excitement in the air to know we got an early lead on a guy like CC."

There were Games 3 and 4 of the National League Championship Series at Dodger Stadium, when Victorino emerged as a lifetime villain in Los Angeles because of two unforgettable events.

In Game 3, Hiroki Kuroda sailed a ball over Victorino's head. The 5-foot-9 outfielder instinctively reacted by imploring the pitcher to throw at his body rather than his head. It was a confrontation that caused both benches to empty, and Victorino has been lustily booed in L.A. ever since, including on the team's most recent road trip last week.

The Flyin' Hawaiian found the perfect way to get even the following night. With the Phillies down by two runs in the top of the eighth inning and the Dodgers on the verge of evening the series at two games each, he lined a two-run home run into the Phillies bullpen in right field to even the game.

Three batters later, Matt Stairs launched his pinch-hit home run deep into the yellow right-field seats, and that all but sealed the Phillies' first trip to the World Series since 1993.

"Victorino is one of those guys that has gone under the radar all year because of all the hitters we have," former Phillies closer Brad Lidge said that night. "He's a great defensive player. He has speed. He has power from both sides of the plate. He's a complete player."

Lidge, of course, converted all 48 of his save opportunities that season, but that happened only because Victorino made an incredible throw home from center field to nail Atlanta's Gregor Blanco in an early June game at Turner Field.

Yes, there were some evenings when you wondered why Victorino swung at a head-high fastball or why he was running when he should not have been. That was part of the package. He had flaws, but the speed, power, and talent have been mesmerizing.

Victorino opened the 2006 season as one of manager Charlie Manuel's bench players, and his first extended playing time came courtesy of Aaron Rowand's heroic face plant into the center-field wall at Citizens Bank Park.

Plenty was written about Rowand's take-one-for-the-team catch that night. Little was said about Victorino.

"This is definitely a good opportunity for me, but you never want to see anybody get hurt," Victorino said. "I feel the pain he's feeling. I have big shoes to fill. I just have to make sure I don't try to do too much."

He went 4 for 4 with a home run in his first game filling in for Rowand and batted .339 with seven extra-base hits while Rowand recovered. From the middle of June on, he started 63 games and the next year he split time in right field with Jayson Werth.

By 2008, he had replaced the departed Rowand as the Phillies' centerfielder. He never ran into a wall, but he did take part in two All-Star Games and two World Series. He earned three Gold Gloves and used his own money to renovate a recreation center for kids in Nicetown that now bears his name.

The Flyin' Hawaiian has won a lot of games in Philadelphia and even more hearts. He may soon be gone, but it will be a long time before he is forgotten.


Inside the Phillies: Flyin' Hawaiian's Philly Time Line

Here is Shane Victorino's history with the Phillies:

December 2004 – The Phillies select Victorino from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Major League Rule 5 draft.

March 2005 – The Phillies offer Victorino back to the Dodgers. The Dodgers decline, and Victorino is sent to triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

September 2005 – He is named International League player of the year after hitting .310 with 25 doubles, 16 triples, and 18 home runs for Scranton.

May 2006 – He hits .339 as the replacement for Aaron Rowand after the starting centerfielder ran into the wall at Citizens Bank Park and was placed on the disabled list.

April 2007 – Victorino makes the first opening-day start of his career, against Atlanta.

April 2008 – He takes over the starting center field job from Rowand, who left for San Francisco as a free agent.

June 2008 – He throws out Gregor Blanco to end a game in Atlanta and preserve closer Brad Lidge's perfect season of converting save opportunities.

October 2008 – Victorino hits a grand slam off CC Sabathia in Game 2 of the NLDS vs. Milwaukee. He also hits a two-run, game-tying homer in Game 4 of the NLCS.

November 2008 – He wins his first Gold Glove.

March 2009 – He plays for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic.

July 2009 – He becomes the fourth Hawaiian-born player selected to the all-star team and the first position player.

October 2009 – He hits .368 with two home runs and six RBIs in an NLCS win over the Dodgers.

November 2009 – He makes the final out of the World Series loss to the New York Yankees and wins his second Gold Glove.

November 2010 – Victorino wins his third Gold Glove.

July 2011 – He is named to his second all-star team.

September 2011 – He unveils a renovated recreation center that bears his name in the Nicetown section of Philadelphia.

October 2011 – After hitting a league-leading and career-high 16 triples he finishes 13th in NL MVP voting.

- Bob Brookover


Contact Bob Brookover at bbrookover@phillynews.com or @brookob on Twitter.

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