My Major League Son
Phillies’ star Shane Victorino’s dad thinks ‘outside the diamond’
The father of a big league baseball player can enjoy many perks: pride, prestige, celebrity, bragging rights and a lot of money in the family. It takes a special perspective to look beyond these earthly goods and state that faith in God and service to neighbor are more important than fame and fortune.
Michael Victorino instilled these values in his son, Philadelphia Phillies’ outfielder Shane Victorino, and he is proud that throughout Shane’s professional career, he has remained a man of prayer who gives back to his community.
At 30 years of age, and in his eighth major league season, Shane has a .280 lifetime batting average and won the Gold Glove award for fielding excellence the past three years. Known for his speed, his nickname is “The Flyin’ Hawaiian,” referring to his birthplace. He was the team’s star in the 2008 season when he hit a grand slam homer in the National League playoffs and the Phillies went on to win the World Series. He also led the team to the World Series in 2009 when the Phillies lost to the New York Yankees.
Shane started off well this season before injuring his right hamstring in May, and is due to return to the line-up in early June.
“As much as I like people coming up to me and saying ‘You’re Shane’s dad,’ and as much as I like to see my son do well and win, I know there are more important things,” said Victorino, who lives in Wailuku, on the island of Maui, Hawaii. “I am most proud of my son for giving back. He always wants to help the less fortunate. His baseball playing will come to an end one day, but there will always be opportunities to serve God and neighbor.”
Shane’s most prominent effort at “giving back” came with the formation of the Shane Victorino Foundation for needy youth, through which he donated $900,000 of his own money to Boys & Girls Clubs of Philadelphia to renovate a century-old recreation center. Shane also has plans for helping young people in Hawaii.
Giving back is also important for the elder Victorino. A councilman for Maui County, he joined the Knights of Columbus 21 years ago to live out his Catholic faith more deeply and actively. After moving up the ranks of the Order in Hawaii, he was elected this year as state deputy. “If you want to stay committed to your Catholic faith and to charity, I think the Knights are the best way,” he said.
Among the challenges he has faced in his life was a tumor found near his brain in 1987. Relying on prayer, he has been cancer free after undergoing two operations. “There was a change in my life and attitude,” he said. “The Lord lays a path for us. If the Lord guides, and we follow, it is good.”
On one of his many offseason visits home, Shane joined his father’s K of C council six years ago, Maui Council 8578. He also was married three years ago at St. Anthony’s Church in Wailuku, and he and his wife, Melissa, have two children together.
As Michael Victorino recalls it, Shane was good in sports from the time he first kicked a soccer ball or hit a baseball, but what set him apart were his focus and determination.
“When he was younger, he did not like losing, and he didn’t understand how anyone on his team could not have that drive,” Victorino recalled. “To some, his attitude came off as arrogance or cockiness, but I always saw it as a desire to do his best, to get everything out of himself and his teammates.”
Shane played youth sports year round in sunny Hawaii, and at St. Anthony High School he drew the attention of college recruiters and pro scouts. He would compete in two sports on the same day, sometimes changing his baseball uniform between innings for the shorts and spikes of a track event.
On a day in early June 1999, he returned from school to learn that he had been drafted in the sixth round by the Los Angeles Dodgers and had a scholarship offer from the University of Hawaii. Life was good.
One evening, his father recalled, Shane went to his room to pray. When he came out, he told his family that he’d decided to take the Dodgers’ offer and play in the minor leagues, with the hope of making the majors soon.
“People look at the major leaguers with the glamour and the big contracts, but in the minor leagues, they don’t give you that much,” his father said. “You really pay your dues, and it teaches you to keep going and never give up if you want to make it.”
At one point, when he was sent down from Triple A to Double A, Shane called his dad saying that he wanted to come home. The elder Victorino shared some wisdom with his son, learned from his battle with cancer: “Don’t quit.”
Shane took the advice, and two years later broke into the majors. That same advice will surely help Shane again as he overcomes his current leg injury and returns to the batting order in June. As his dad points out, Shane doesn’t like to lose.