Victorino's excited to remain a Phillie
By Jon Marks
Special to The Advertiser
PHILADELPHIA — Sorry fans of Dodger Blue, but the Philadelphia Phillies' Shane Victorino says Hawai'i is now a "red'' state.
Of course, Victorino, a Los Angeles Dodger tormentor in the playoffs the past two seasons, could add another color to his wardrobe — green, for money.
Victorino, a St. Anthony High graduate from Maui who was drafted by the Dodgers, signed a three-year, $22 million extension to remain with the two-time defending National League champion Phillies through at least 2012.
"Hawai'i's a state where it's really about the family and I think the way we play the game a lot of people see we have that personality,'' said a jubilant Victorino during yesterday's press conference. "We go out there and play the game the right way.
"It helps I'm on the team. But being from a place like Hawai'i there's a lot of red now, because I play for a team everyone has grown to love.''
They love him here, too, with his fiery "Flyin Hawaiian' " style and bubbly personality. Loved him enough to vote him on to the All-Star team last July. But until now that love had pretty much been limited to the Phils' adoring fans and his teammates.
Management had never quite shown Shane the money.
That's why his name would often come up during trade talks, as if the Phillies could survive without a two-time Gold Glover who could track down almost anything in the outfield, run the bases like a madman and come up with key hits on a regular basis. Suddenly he'll no longer have to hold his breath the next time trade rumors start flying.
"You never get comfortable,'' said Victorino, who left yesterday for the Cayman Islands with his new bride for teammate Jimmy Rollins' wedding. "But something like this definitely changes your outlook on things.
"You become part of the organization, a building block in the future. It does give me a sense of security and a sense of what this organization wants.''
Having already locked in its top four starters, including recently acquired Roy Halladay through the next three seasons, to go with big bats of Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Rollins, the 29-year-old Victorino knows this club figures to contend on a regular basis. That was one of the key factors in his deciding to accept a multi-year offer rather than go year-to-year.
"I told Ruben (Amaro, the general manager) it's about winning,'' said Victorino, sporting a full head of hair to go with his full wallet. "Sometimes guys take the money and they're not happy in the city they're playing in.
"But I know every year for the next three years at least I have the potential to play on the biggest stage. That definitely played into the fact why I wanted to do it now.
"The way I play the game is not gonna change. I'm still gonna play like I'm fighting for a contract, because I want to win another World Series and bring that trophy back.''
Still, when he takes a moment to reflect, Victorino, whom Amaro called a "classic overachiever,'' says he's far exceeded anyone's expectations.
"Growing up, would I have ever thought I'd be in this position? Absolutely not,'' said Victorino, who fulfilled his longtime dream of paying off his parents' home last year and now will focus on other family members. "Nor would my parents nor anyone who watched me grow up (would) ever say it.
"My brother always asks me what it's like to be in your position. I say 'Mikey, I don't take it for granted.' It's been a long and achieving road, but I think that's what made me what I am.
"It makes me really appreciate what I have. I was never a guy on top of somebody's list But it made me work harder. It's about not just having something handed to you. In everyday life when you have to work hard you really appreciate where you are at the end of the day.''
Which is why Victorino and the Phillies have formed such a mutual admiration society. With the acquisition of third baseman Placido Polanco, though, Victorino's spot in the lineup, though, will likely change from the two-hole to No. 6 or 7, meaning you can expect fewer steals but perhaps more RBIs.
Regardless of where he hits, Victorino won't mind since he knows he's here for the long haul.
"I'm definitely excited to be here and wouldn't want to be anywhere else,'' Victorino said.
"When I was growing up everything was about the Braves, because they were on TBS. Now I have to say the state has changed. We've turned Hawai'i into a state of Phillies fans.''
Which has to make even the most frustrated Dodgers' fan seeing red.
NOTES: Victorino will receive $5 million this year, $7.5 million in 2011 and $9.5 million in 2012 under the agreement ... He hit .292 with 39 doubles, 13 triples, 10 home runs, 62 RBIs and 25 stolen bases last season. ... The Phillies also reach a preliminary agreement on a one-year deal with right-hander Jose Contreras. The deal is contingent on a physical, a person familiar with the negotiations said on condition of anonymity because the Phillies didn't make an announcement.