Monday, Nov. 10, 2008 | 9 p.m.
More on Shane Victorino
Philadelphia Phillies outfielder and Summerlin resident Shane Victorino is not a quitter. But in the midst of a World Series celebration party at Red Rock Lanes on Sunday night, he remembers how he came close to walking away from baseball just a few years ago.
“I’ve always said, 'Play 'til they take the jersey off your back,'” Victorino said. “But there were definitely hard times. There were times when I gave up, meaning I wanted to walk away from the sport. But my parents reminded me that I had goals and until someone told me I couldn’t play anymore, I had to keep going.”
The hardest time for Victorino came after one of the most exciting landmarks of his career. After playing well for the Triple-A Las Vegas 51s, Victorino played 36 games for the San Diego Padres in 2003 only to find out he was moving down to Double-A Jacksonville the following year.
“He felt he didn’t deserve to get sent all the way to Double-A, and he called me and said he was thinking he wanted to come home,” said Mike Victorino, Shane’s father. “I felt like if he came home, he would never go back. So I told him just try to stay there for three weeks. If you’re still unhappy, come home.”
Victorino stayed and was moved back to Triple-A midway through the season.
Three years later, he is a World Series champion and 2008 Gold Glove winner. Although the Hawaiian native plays for Philadelphia, he found a home in Las Vegas where he was an outfielder for the 51s in 2003 and 2004.
“I’d say this is definitely where home is now,” Victorino said. “This is where my fiancee is, it’s where the kids are. It’s where I like to work out and it has basically everything I need in the offseason.”
Following Hawaiian tradition, Victorino has become active in the community he lives in. He even called up Bonanza High School, one of several area high schools where he trains, and offered to talk with the players about the sport.
Victorino now lives in a house he purchased in 2005 with his fiancee, Melissa Smith. When he's not working out or playing baseball, he's playing dad to stepson Keenan and 20-month-old daughter Kali’a.
“I love everything about being a dad,” Victorino said. “She’s a handful though. They always say you get a taste of your own medicine from when you were a kid. She’s just like I was -- 100 mph.”
Victorino's father said that before Shane was 5 years old, he had been to the emergency room 10 different times and gotten 28 stitches for accidents such as getting hit by a vehicle while on a scooter and falling out of a moving car.
“If there was a way to get hurt or get into mischief, Shane would find it,” Mike Victorino said.
It might have been that energy that has helped him get to where he is today. Victorino, 27, was a state champion sprinter for St. Anthony High School in Hawaii and even had an offer to play college football at the University of Hawaii. At 5 feet 9 inches tall, he said he thought baseball would give him the best chance at becoming a professional athlete. His professional career began in 1999 when he was selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the sixth round.
“I actually thought I wanted to play soccer or football when I was younger,” Victorino said. “My dad and I sat down and decided what sport I could have a long career in. It’s hard to say what would have happened if I had picked another one. I know that I never would have given up, though.”
Despite a World Series, Gold Glove, an upcoming marriage and two children to look after, Victorino says he doesn’t feel any different than when he was just a Hawaiian boy trying to scrap his way to the Major League a decade ago.
Those closest to him agree.
“Knowing the type of person he is, he’ll keep accomplishing things,” said close friend and Chicago Cubs outfielder Reed Johnson. “Not just professionally, but all throughout his life. He’s the kind of guy I try to surround myself with.”
Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or [email protected].