No quick comeback after Shane.

Inquirer reporter Kristen A. Graham talks with Shane Victorino. He had congratulated her on winning a Pulitzer Prize. She met his parents in 2008.
Inquirer reporter Kristen A. Graham talks with Shane Victorino. He had congratulated her on winning a Pulitzer Prize. She met his parents in 2008.

A heart full of Phils love takes a Hawaiian punch

Posted: August 03, 2012

Moments after Shane Victorino was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers this week, my editor approached me.

"Do you need to take a half-day?" she asked. She was only half joking. Well-meaning friends e-mailed and text-messaged all day, wondering how I was doing.

To say that I love the Phillies is an understatement. To say that Shane Victorino was my favorite player is like saying Antarctica is mildly cold.

I've had partial Phillies season tickets for years; I travel to Clearwater, Fla., to watch the Phils play every spring. I keep score at every game I attend - a habit I picked up as a child.

I love Rollins, Chooch, Howard, Hamels. I felt a pang when news of Hunter Pence's trade to the San Francisco Giants surfaced.

But Shane, the scrappy, smiling centerfielder, was my sentimental favorite. Despite being raised in Hawaii, he just got Philly.

He loved the city the same way I do, relishing the big hearts and big mouths that come with the territory. He did good things in the community.

I met his parents for a story I was writing during the Phillies' magical 2008 playoff run. I was struck by how like my own folks they are - salt-of-the-earth, kind people. His mother, Joycelyn, hugged me, thanking me for being the kind of fan who made her boy feel so at home in Philadelphia.

(I wrote at the time: There's a Hawaiian word, 'hanai,' that means adopted - family not related by blood, but taken in and loved anyway. Shane's parents say he has a city full of hanai family.)

For the last few months, I've referred to Shane as my BFF.

In April - when an Inquirer team that I was part of won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for public service for a series about violence in the Philadelphia School District - Shane called me. A colleague had tipped off the Phillies' press office about my ├╝ber-fandom.

My favorite player laughed off the tough time I gave him initially. (Kristen: "Who is this?" Shane: "It's Shane." Kristen: "Come on. Who is this, really?" Repeat several times.) He was incredibly kind. He said he was proud of the work we had done.

A few weeks later, I was part of a group lucky enough to meet Shane before a Phillies game. We posed for photos on the field; he signed a ball for me. He even inscribed it with "Beloved Heroes!" - the message I tweet after every Phillies win.

Intellectually, I understand why the Phillies traded Shane. This has been a dismal and disappointing season, and Shane will be a free agent at its end. Better to get something now than risk having him walk away.

Baseball, former commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti once wrote, "breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart."

I will get over it. But, man, is it tough.

The Phillies are my beloved heroes because of the joy they bring me. Though Shane's just a man I had one phone conversation with, whose hand I shook once, he felt like family. It made me happy to root for him.

So you'll excuse me if I walk around a little glum for a while.

It isn't every day you lose your BFF.

Contact Kristen Graham at 215-854-5146, or follow on Twitter @newskag.

comments powered by Disqus