Posts Tagged ‘Major League Baseball’

Jerome Williams – Spreading Aloha, One Pitch at a Time

January 1, 2014

When you see Major League pitcher Jerome Williams for the first time, you see a big, strong man with hands the size of a grizzly bear. At 6’3″ and 240 lbs, you know for sure that he’s an athlete, and was likely “bred” somewhere in the Midwest.

And then he opens his mouth.

Bruddah’s first words to me were in pidgin. I loved it. And as we got to talking, his humble and down to earth nature made me feel right at home as if we grew up together back in the day. Just choke Aloha. The big grizzly bear had suddenly turned into a soft teddy bear. 😛

Jerome Williams and author Edward Sugimoto
Jerome Williams and author Edward Sugimoto

Williams was born and raised in Waipahu Hawaii. As a Marauder standout, he was selected, at the tender age of 17, by the San Francisco Giants as the 39th overall pick in the first round of the 1999 Major League Baseball draft. By 21, he made his big league debut – a tough loss against the Philadelphia Phillies – but closed out the year with 88 strikeouts, a 3.30 ERA and winning 7-5 record.

His baseball career has taken him all over the league with stints with the Giants, Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals, as well as all over the world, playing in leagues as far away as Mexico, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and Taiwan. His most recent gig with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim was cut short this past off season when the Angels decided not to tender his contract, which actually now opens the door to sign on as a full time starter (Williams’ preference) for a number of interested teams vying for his attention.

I recently caught up with Williams during his recent trip back home to Hawaii.

 

Jerome Williams Interview

 

[Edward Sugimoto] First of all Happy (32nd) Birthday! (Jerome’s birthday is on 12/4/81)

[Jerome Williams] Thank you man, thank you.

[Edward Sugimoto] Did you do anything fun for your birthday?

[Jerome Williams] Well, not yet…

[Edward Sugimoto] Still early?

[Jerome Williams] Still early in the morning. Actually, I goin go see my mom. My mom stay up in um, down Kaneohe side (Hawaiian Memorial Park Mortuary). I’m gonna see my mom today. I always do that every year on my birthday. Go see my mother.

[Edward Sugimoto] Not many people know this, but you’re part Hawaiian.

[Jerome Williams] Yeah.

[Edward Sugimoto] (What’s) Your favorite Hawaiian word?

[Jerome Williams] Da kine (laughs).

Jerome Williams during our interview (Photo Credit: Arthur Betts IV)
Jerome Williams during our interview (Photo Credit: Arthur Betts IV)

[Edward Sugimoto] (laughs) That’s a good one. And what about your favorite phrase in pidgin?

[Jerome Williams] It’s explicit so I cannot say. Nah, most of my friends we always talk and there’s a lot of explicit stuff in it, but sometimes I get to a point where I use it a lot up in the mainland and guys don’t understand so I try not to say nothing.

[Edward Sugimoto] You can actually use it!

[Jerome Williams] I can’t actually use it at all. But like I said, it’s explicit so I can’t really say on air.

[Edward Sugimoto] No worries, no worries. In some what bittersweet news, the Angels decided not to tender your contract yesterday, making you a free agent. Your agent Larry O’Brien has been quoted though as saying that it could be a blessing in disguise because you could start for a number of other teams. What are your current thoughts on that and have you given any thought to a team you might want to pitch for?

[Jerome Williams] Um, you know, I think it’s a good thing for me. The years I was with the Angels I was a swing man. I was in the bullpen and starting, but you know, I really wanted to stay with the Angels. I just bought a home there. Like how you said, it is bittersweet. I felt like I had a new beginning with them and you know right now it’s just a waiting process. I’m a free agent now. There’s a lot of teams I really want to go to. First of all, I want to stay on the west coast. Closer to home, closer to my family. Also too, I want to be at a place where I can have spring training in Arizona (Cactus League). I really don’t like to go all the way down to Florida (Grapefruit League). It’s a long haul all the way out there and the travel for the games and all that stuff. Your closest trip is two hours. That’s the longest trip in Arizona. I just want to try and be closer to Arizona and closer to home.

[Edward Sugimoto] You’ve had a lot of twists and turns in your baseball career taking you all over the world (including stints in Puerto Rico and Taiwan). At any point, did you ever feel like giving up?

[Jerome Williams] Um, I want to say probably in 2008. 2007 I was with the Nationals and in 2008 I couldn’t find a job. I couldn’t find a job anywhere so I played independent ball. And the year I played independent ball, I thought I wasn’t going to make it back at all. But my wife and kids and my family, they always supported me so that year I got picked up and then I went to Puerto Rico to play winter ball. I got picked up by Oakland and then that next year I went to Taiwan. And then I went up and down playing from like I said Taiwan, Puerto Rico for winter ball, Venezuela for winter ball, Mexico for winter ball, so you know, I’ve been all over the place to try and get back to where I needed to be and fortunately, I got picked up by the Angels when I was in Independent ball in 2011.

[Edward Sugimoto] It was a good thing you didn’t give up because you had somewhat of a renaissance in your career.

[Jerome Williams] Exactly. All that hard work, everything that I’ve been through, it made me stronger.

[Edward Sugimoto] For those who don’t know, you wear a pink glove when you pitch. Can you talk a little bit about what that represents to you?

[Jerome Williams] When I first got drafted, my mom was alive. And then in 2001 my mom passed away from breast cancer so at that time I wanted to honor her and wear a puka shell necklace cause she actually gave it to me. But as the years went on, I got bigger and the necklace got smaller (smiles), so it broke. But in 2010 when I was in Taiwan, I was on a trip up there and I was real flashy with gloves out there. They’re real flashy with it. And the first time I went by a store, I seen a pink glove and I told myself I was going to get one. So that next year, 2011 would’ve been 10 years (since the passing of his mom) so I just wanted to pay tribute to my mom so I wore a pink glove. That’s what the pink glove represents it represents my mother who passed away with breast cancer. I wear it every day on the mound. The first glove I had that I brought to the big leagues, I still have it. I don’t use it anymore because I got another contract with Woodz. They gave me a contract (smiles). I’m the first non-Taiwanese player to (be) sponsor(ed) (wearing) their gloves in the major leagues so I’m pretty thankful for that. Just by using the pink glove it shows awareness of breast cancer. I know some people know that the MLB, they do breast cancer days. Breast Cancer day is every day for me.

[Edward Sugimoto] Do you think you’re going to start a trend with other pitchers?

[Jerome Williams] Well, if that trend starts, I’m the original guy to do it so hopefully I can get recognized for that first, and then people can do it.

[Edward Sugimoto] Your name, your moniker on Twitter and Instagram is @pinkpuka57. You mentioned the glove and the puka shell… Is that kinda where it came from?

[Jerome Williams] That’s how it came about. In the beginning when I first got called up, like I said, I wore the puka shell necklace and a couple of the guys on the team used to call me, that used to be my nickname is “puka” so that’s how they knew me as. And then once I had the pink glove and everything and then my number (57), then I was like you know what, I might as well put all those three together and make it just one.

Jerome Williams during our interview (Photo Credit: Arthur Betts IV)
Jerome Williams during our interview (Photo Credit: Arthur Betts IV)

[Edward Sugimoto] What is your typical day like back here in the islands?

[Jerome Williams] It depends. I know my wife and kids, they’ve been here a lot, so we try and hit up some places to go eat. The stuff that we don’t have up in California. The first day I arrived, I went straight to Jackie’s Diner in Waimalu. And then, last night, I took my wife to Shiro’s (Saimin Haven) in Ewa. The other day I went to Highway Inn. Highway Inn, I used to live right across the street from there. So we just try to hit up the places that we know we can’t get out in California and also too, just try to spend time with family and friends. Usually on the weekends and even during the week, friends, they come to the house, or I actually go to them. They play softball at Waipahu Rec Center or at CORPs. They ask me sometimes if I want to go play with them, and I play with them! I actually try and give back to the guys that actually gave back to me. That’s the true friends that I want to see. That’s the true friends that I want to hang out with. Sometimes I’ll go and see one of my good friends Bubba from Rebel Souljahz. They were born and raised in Waipahu and I remember when they were little kids. I always try and support them. The other night, I went to Republik to support Maoli and Jordan T. So I met those guys too. You know I just want to try and support anybody that’s from Hawaii that’s doing well and also too my family and friends.

[Edward Sugimoto] What are your favorite non baseball related hobbies?

[Jerome Williams] For some odd reason, everybody looks at me and they don’t think electronics, but I’m an electronic freak. Right now, I have all of my kids all on the electronics. My four year old knows how to use an iPad from left to right. And, actually, he knows how to do Minecraft. I don’t even know how to do Minecraft! So I got my kids doing Minecraft, I love computers, I love music. I like anything with any electronical type of things. Sometimes I like to do my car, like speakers, integrate my iPod into it so I’m really big into that. And then also too I like to play basketball but I can’t play basketball because I’m under contract. And my wife is like you don’t need to play basketball right now because you’re a free agent and if you get hurt then, next thing you know, you can’t play. I’m kinda pissed off about that. That’s the type of cardio I like to do, but I know how basketball is here, especially outside, and especially of what I am, people would probably want to try and hurt me.

[Edward Sugimoto] You mentioned your iPod. What’s on your iPod right now… Some of your favorites?

[Jerome Williams] It goes from electronics to dub step to reggae to Hawaiian music, hip hop, r & b, rock, country, I mean everything. I just looked at my computer because I put a 1 terabyte hard drive inside my computer and right now, on my iTunes, I have 316 gigs of music. So it’s equivalent to almost 55,000 songs. I have all that on top my computer and I showed my dad and my dad was like “Why the hell do you need all that music? You don’t even listen to it.” And I was like “No, trust me, I’ll listen to it.” But it’s cool to have those types of music because maybe one day, you want to try and browse through it and you’ll be like “Oh dang I used to listen to that when I was in high school.”

[Edward Sugimoto] Yeah, brings back memories.

[Jerome Williams] Yup.

[Edward Sugimoto] You mentioned Jordan T… Any other favorite Hawaiian bands?

[Jerome Williams] You know Jordan T, Maoli. Who else you got? Iration, of course Rebel (Souljahz). Some of the newer stuff, I really don’t listen to cause we don’t have that access up in the mainland but when I do come down, I always try and help them out, I always try and listen to it. I’m really an old school guy with the Hawaiian music. I can go back to Natty Vibes (Natural Vibrations), go down to Kapena, Hui Ohana. Hui Ohana is one of my favorites because that’s what my mom used to dance to. She used to dance hula and there’s one song I always listen to when I feel down and out. It was a song that my mom used to dance to called Sweet Lei Mokihana. Actually I listened to that song on my first win in the major leagues after I came out of the game because it soothes me and it always reminds me of my mother.

[Edward Sugimoto] You are one of only a handful of Hawaii bred baseball players in the Major Leagues so the fraternity is pretty tight I’m assuming. How often do you get to chat with people like Vic (Shane Victorino), Brandon League, and Kolten Wong, etc.?

[Jerome Williams] It’s kinda hard to talk to Brandon and Kolten because they were in the National League at that time, and I played Vic twice a year, I played him one time in Boston and one time at home in Anaheim, but whenever I get the chance, I always want to try and reach out to them. When Kurt (Suzuki) and Kila (Ka’aihue) was in Oakland, I talked to them almost every time because they’re in the same division. It’s a funny story because every time I talk to them pidgin comes out. So one of the guys on the team, LaTroy Hawkins, actually came up to me and was like “Jerome, are you from Hawaii?” and I’m like “Yes.” and he was like “Well, I want you to talk to Kila and Kurt right now. I want you to talk to them right now just like how you talk back at home.” OK, so we started talking and he kinda actually stopped me. And he was like “Jerome, I don’t understand what you said, but from what you did say, I know you’re from Hawaii.” I’m like, “OK, I told you guys that!” Because everybody thinks you know I’m black, but they don’t believe that I’m from Hawaii. I was born and raised here, born and raised in Waipahu, everybody don’t believe that. But getting back to what you said about all the guys, yeah, it’s a tight fraternity and we always want to try and see each other or try and talk to each other or give each other information. I don’t know if you guys were reading things on Twitter when we had the World Series. You never found that. That’s the first time ever you had two Hawaii guys in the World Series playing against each other. I was pulling for Vic because me and Vic, we got drafted with each other and I knew him for a long time. Kolten…

[Edward Sugimoto] Didn’t play that much anyway…

[Jerome Williams] Well he did play a couple times, a couple times he did good and the one time he did bad, but you know what. At least he had the opportunity to get there. I mean, I never got an opportunity to get there. I’ve been playing for, since I was like what, my first year was in ’03. I’m happy for them getting there and especially for Kolten. He’s gonna have the opportunity to play second (base) now for the Cardinals. Hopefully he can shine and do well too.

[Edward Sugimoto] And finally, do you have a word for your fans out there?

[Jerome Williams] Awww man, fans. Shoot. I know you guys follow me on Twitter and Instagram @pinkpuka57. Thanks for all the support you have done for me. I always try and give back to Hawaii any way I can and this is one of the ways I want to give back, saying thank you to you guys. It’s been a long road for me and I know you guys know my story. Every time I come back I always want to try and do something for Hawaii. This is my way of saying thank you. Thank you to everybody and um, just keep supporting me. Like I said, follow me on Instagram and Twitter @pinkpuka57. Aloha. Thank you.

Jerome Williams and photographer/videographer Arthur Betts IV
Jerome Williams and photographer/videographer Arthur Betts IV

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V for Victorino – A Chat With Hawaii’s All Star Shane Victorino

September 1, 2009

It’s no coincidence that the word Victory is in Shane Victorino’s name. Losing is not even in his vocabulary. As a gifted athlete growing up, he’s always been on the winning end in sports. As a 28 year old young adult, it’s no different. He was an integral member of the world champion Philadelphia Phillies last season, has won the Gold Glove award, and was recently named to the Major League All Star Game, the first positional player from Hawaii to be bestowed the honor. And to think… this is just the beginning!

Victorino actually started his athletic career almost out of necessity. As an extremely active child with ADHD, his parents enrolled him in sports to feed his energy and keep him engaged. The decision proved to be a good one as Shane went on to star at Maui’s St. Anthony High in 4 sports: football, soccer, track and baseball. And, although he was offered a full ride scholarship to the University of Hawaii for football and baseball, Shane got the blessing of his family and chose to pursue a career in baseball when the Los Angeles Dodgers came a callin’ in 1999.

After years of minor league ball, the San Diego Padres claimed him from the Dodgers in 2002 via the Rule 5 draft (“Major league teams must protect players on their 40-man rosters within three or four years of their original signing. Those left unprotected are available to other teams as Rule 5 picks.” – http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/columnists/askbarule5.html), where he actually saw some time in the bigs (36 games). Eventually, he was returned to the Padres (as part of Rule 5 stipulations), before being drafted again, via Rule 5, by the Philadelphia Phillies in 2004.

The losses of starters Bobby Abreu (trade) and Aaron Rowand (free agency) made room for Shane to display his skills in the outfield and ultimately earn a starting spot in 2007.

Info about Victorino from a Phillies display at Philadelphia Airport
Info about Victorino from a Phillies display at Philadelphia Airport

During a recent home series against the Florida Marlins, I was able to catch up with our All Star from the islands about his personal life, his career and everything else in between. Enjoy!

Personal Life:

Edward Sugimoto) We’ll start off with an easy one: What’s a typical day in the life of Shane Victorino in Maui?

Shane Victorino) In Maui? Typical day in the life of Shane Victorino in Maui? Woo. You know what? That probably would’ve been just getting up in the morning, getting up to the beautiful weather, of course there in Hawaii, our beautiful island of Maui, and just spending time with the family. That would be now, but back when I was a kid, it was probably, get up, go to school. After school’s done, go to sports – whatever practice it may be – soccer, football, whatever was going on at the time, baseball, track, and after that’s done, go home and spend time with the family.

The author and Shane Victorino
The author and Shane Victorino

Edward Sugimoto) A couple years ago (March 30, 2007), you became a father (daughter Kali`a Makenna Victorino). How does that feel?

Shane Victorino) Oh I love it! I love being a dad. My little girl Kalia, she’s a little rascal. My mom guys always told me, sometimes it comes full circle. My mom and dad did a wonderful job with me as a kid, and now I get to see what I was probably like, and see my genes go to work on my daughter. She’s a handful so I can only imagine what I was like for my mom and dad.

Edward Sugimoto) Speaking of your dad, he’s a Council Member back in Maui. Did he give you any kind of words of wisdom or leadership advice?

Shane Victorino) Um, you know what, dad’s one of those guys where I think, in the position that he’s in, and some of the things that he’s done in the community, you know he always told me work hard, and when you go out there, you work hard, you show people that you can be a leader, not by talking about it, but by going out there and doing things the right way. Giving back to the community and so on and so forth. So to have dad in that position I think it’s nice and you know he loves what he does, he loves always giving back and working for the community, when he got into the Councilman position he was very excited.

The author and Shane Victorino
The author and Shane Victorino

Edward Sugimoto) You mentioned being in baseball, you were an Eagle Scout, Football (star in Soccer, Basketball and Track too). Is there anything you CAN’T do? 🙂

Shane Victorino) Anything I can’t do. (*laughs*). You know what’s funny, I never did surf. I never did surf growing up. That’s the one thing I think everybody always kinda questions like coming from Hawaii, how it is to surf and yada yada yada, but I always told myself, when my friends went to the beach, I went to the baseball park, I went to the football field, I went to the soccer field, you know I wanted to go get better playing spots, so I think that helped me differentiate myself from some of the things that, you know, if I went and spent a lot of time at the beach and surfed, it would’ve took away from me trying to be a good athlete that I am today.

Edward Sugimoto) Speaking about baseball, we (Hawaii) have Tony Rego, Sid Fernandez, and Benny Agbayani from back in the day. Today we have like the Little Leaguers from Waipio, you, Tyler Yates (Kurt Suzuki). Is this just the beginning of Hawaii talent coming into the league?

Shane Victorino) Yeah. I think Hawaii is definitely going to be a place where scouts are gonna come. Myself, Kurt Suzuki, you said Tyler Yates, Brandon League. I mean I can keep going down the list. More and more kids are in the minor leagues, so it’s definitely one of those things where Hawaii’s gonna become a state where I think a lot of people are gonna look, go there and look for talent, and look for baseball talent. The thing is Hawaii has so many talented kids, it’s just that a lot of them don’t want to go away. A lot of them miss Hawaii, and yada yada, and I always say to myself, if my family’s healthy, eveybody’s doing great, Hawaii’s Hawaii. It’s not gonna change. If you get the opportunity to go away, go to the (eastern) states and do some things, hey take the chance. You know what, your home will always be home. It ain’t gonna go nowhere.

The author and Shane Victorino
The author and Shane Victorino

Edward Sugimoto) You’re highly involved in the community, both in Philadelphia and in Hawaii. And you have a Celebrity Golf Classic (to raise funds and awareness for Hawaii Children’s Cancer Foundation) coming up in November I believe (November 21st at the Maui Prince Makena Resort)? What makes you care so much about your community?

Shane Victorino) Well, I just think that being in the position that I’m in today, you know, growing up there in Hawaii, I never really saw too much of these kinds of things. Being in the sport that I’m in, I have a lot of teammates who host charity events, and for me, I was always taught that any way you can give back, it’s just one of those things, if you can give back, why not? If you can make an impact on somebody’s life, why not? And I think that when I got into the level that I got last year, I told myself, you know what, it’s time for me to try and make something happen in Hawaii. We’ll raise money for certain causes. Last year it was Alzheimer’s, this year it’s Hawaii’s Children’s Cancer research. So any way I can give back, I think is one of those things where I’ve always uh. You know when you’re in a position, like they say, “well you’re a professional athlete, you should give back.” Well, sometimes I think that we’re in a position that we don’t have to give back, but we’re in a position where we can help to make the community build and I think that’s what we do and that’s why I love doing these charity events.

Shane doing an interview with a reporter at UFC 101
Shane doing an interview with a reporter at UFC 101

Edward Sugimoto) How’d you like the fight last night (UFC 101 was at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia)? We saw you!

Shane Victorino) I loved it! (*turns to camera*) Right on! Good job BJ! I was definitely excited. He definitely represented Hawaii. I think he worked hard. He was really, really focused on this fight and wanted to make an impression. I think that was what I saw out of him. He had that drive, he had that desire, he had the BJ Penn attitude. I think he really worked hard for this fight. He wanted to prove to people again that hey, you know what he’s still known as one of the best guys.

Edward Sugimoto) You probably have a lot of fans from Hawaii in for the fight and probably here for the game today. Are you pretty amped up about that?

Shane Victorino) Yeah, no I’m excited. I saw a few Hawaiian flags flying in the stands the last couple nights, so, it’s definitely nice to have the support and love from the Hawaii people.

Baseball Life:

Edward Sugimoto) You had a full ride scholarship to UH for Football. How difficult of a decision was it to turn that down and pursue a career in baseball?

Shane Victorino) It was very tough. It was one of those things, uh, you know my mom definitely wanted me to get a good education, and she definitely pushed that. She sent me to a private high school (St. Anthony in Maui) for a reason and that was to get a good education and to hopefully do well in sports and so on and so forth. But when that day came, it was definitely tough. But I told my mom, I said, “Mom, college will always be there. I may never have another chance to go pro.” So it was definitely a tough decision, but when I made a decision, I told myself I’m gonna go ’til I can’t stop. I wanted to go there and I wanted to work hard. As they always say, until they take the jersey off your back, I don’t want to quit. There were times yeah definitely through the minor leagues, there were struggles, and there were times I wanted to come home, but my dad said, “Hey just remember, you coming back home, you’re never going back.” That was words of advice that I’ll always remember. If I gave up when I wanted to, I may never get another chance to play pro ball, so I stuck with it, worked hard. But going back to the question, it was definitely a tough decision, but like I said, I told my mom, “Mom, education was gonna be there, college ain’t going nowhere.” You know, I can go to college when I’m 35, 40 years old. Hopefully I had a good career. I can go back to college when I’m done. So it was definitely tough, but I talked mom out of it, and I was able to go and turn pro, and hey, I’m having a wonderful time so far.

Victorino info on the billboard
Victorino info on the billboard

Edward Sugimoto) The Phillies. You guys are all pretty aggressive, work hard. Is that something Coach (Charlie) Manuel stresses?

Shane Victorino) Yeah, um, you know what, Charlie is one of those guys where he lets you play. He’s the kind of manager that you want to play for. A guy that’s gonna let you go out there and gonna let you play the game that you play. Not gonna put too much stress on you, he’s not gonna bash you in the media. He’s gonna come and call you in his office if he wants to talk to you about things. So, when you come to the field every day, you know what you have out of your manager, and that’s the kind of guy you want. A guy who’s gonna be in your corner, not a guy that’s gonna yell at you, stress you out even more than what this game already does. He’s the kind of manager that we call a player’s manager. He takes care of his players. He goes out there, he wants his players to do their best. He’s got two rules: it’s to be on time and play hard (and hustle). You can’t ask much more out of a manager than that.

Phillies logo in the Phillies dugout
Phillies logo in the Phillies dugout

Edward Sugimoto) You wear a rarely fashioned double eared helmet. Is this because that’s how we used to play back in the day or just ’cause you’re a switch hitter? 🙂

Shane Victorino) Well, yeah, no, I did that in the minor leagues, and when I got to the big leagues, I put the one flap on for a while and it was kinda like I felt uncomfortable. So I told myself, why change? I did it in the minor leagues, I did it in Little League, why not keep it up? Plus, being a switch hitter, I don’t want to carry two different helmets, so some of those things factor in.

Shane Victorino sporting the double-eared helmet
Shane Victorino sporting the double-eared helmet

Edward Sugimoto) Do you have a preference (right handed or left handed batting)?

Shane Victorino) No. There’s times you feel good from the right, there’s time you feel great from the left side. So you just gotta keep playing in this game. You play 162 games for a reason. You’re gonna go through your ups and downs, you’re gonna have your slumps, you’re gonna have your struggles, but you just go out there and keep working.

Edward Sugimoto) #8. Is there a reason why you chose that number?

Shane Victorino) Um, you know what, my brother was #8 in high school, my mom’s born on January 8, so 8 has some significance. I was 8 in high school. When I first got here, they gave me #8 so I was lucky enough, and I really didn’t have to ask for #8, but I was given #8 my first year here. It’s definitely a number that has ties to me.

Edward Sugimoto) Congratulations on winning the Gold Glove last season. Do you take pride in your defensive skills as much or more than your batting skills?

Shane Victorino) I definitely take pride in my offense a little more I think. But I mean I take pride in my defense too. I think defense is such a great factor in a ball game. You can never struggle. You should never slump on defense. You’re gonna go through struggles at the plate. You’re gonna go through 0 for 30s, you’re gonna go for 2 for 50s, but on defense you should never struggle because that’s not something where you gotta worry about hitting, you gotta worry about seeing the ball. You just gotta worry about staying focused, making good plays, and going out there and playing hard.

Shane manning the outfield (I know... kinda blurry!)
Shane manning the outfield (I know… kinda blurry!)

Edward Sugimoto) What’s the biggest rush. Homerun? Stolen base? Diving catch?

Shane Victorino) You know what, they all have their different life. Of course if you hit a walk-off homerun, that’s more exciting. When you make a diving catch in the game, that’s exciting. You steal a base in a big big situation, so you know, every one has its own weight I think. But for me, I would say, hitting a home run in a crucial situation, I think to me would be the most exciting thing.

Edward Sugimoto) You became the first Hawaii-born positional player in the All Star game. You had the support of Philadelphia, Hawaii, and everybody else (Both Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell and Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle showed their support, and South Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter even went door to door to solicit votes). You had 15.6 million Internet votes which set a record (previously held by Evan Longoria in 2008 at 9 million). How does that make you feel to have so much support?

Shane Victorino) It made me feel great. That really showed what Philly fans, what Hawaii fans, and what the passion of baseball has. The blessing that I had to be able to be voted in, to get that amount of votes, almost double what the guy the previous year had I think, was such an amazing thing. It really showed how much Philly fans and people around the world really care I guess about how I play the game and how I approach the game, so it was definitely a nice thing.

Edward Sugimoto) You had a hit in the All Star game. Explain your experience, the whole experience.

Shane Victorino) Everything was great. Every bit of it was what I expected. There were a few things, of course getting to meet President Obama again, just listening to the 5 living presidents talk before the game on the big screen about All Stars among us, people who are helping the community. Every moment had its catch, and being introduced as a starter, and then going out there and getting my first hit in my first at bat in my All Star game, or my first All Star game, so, it was some fun times.

Edward Sugimoto) On Friday, the Phillies inducted Harry Kalas into the Phillies Wall of Fame. After a recent homerun, you pointed to the booth where he used to sit. Kalas has a history in Hawaii (with the US Army and as a Hawaii Islanders announcer). What kind of an impact did he have on you?

Shane Victorino) He had that voice that I remember growing up as a little kid watching Inside the NFL at my grandma’s house, thinking to myself, who’s voice is this I’m hearing? And then when I came here in ’05, I remember hearing his voice when I got called up and I’m like, hold on, this is the guy’s voice that I used to hear when I was a little kid when I used to watch Inside the NFL, NFL Films. You know, it was just like, woah, this is the man. This is the guy, Harry Kalas, the guy that I remember growing up watching Inside the, you know NFL Films, and hearing that voice. To actually meet the guy in person, we definitely had a bondage. I remember one of my walk off homeruns, he said Victorino No Ka Oi. That was one thing he would always call me. “Hey! Victorino No Ka Oi!” You know he would always say that. He definitely had his roots to Hawaii. His first wife was from Hawaii, he definitely started with the Islanders, did some broadcasting there, so he definitely had some roots to the islands.

Shane Victorino
Shane Victorino

Edward Sugimoto) What does the future hold for Shane Victorino?

Shane Victorino) What does the future hold huh? Just try to be the best player I can be. To go out there and try to keep succeeding, try to keep getting better. In this game, there’s always room for improvement, and I think you go out there and work hard every day, that’s all I can say. I try to go out there and work as hard as I can, and try to play as hard as I can because you never know what could happen. Tomorrow may be my last day, today might be my last day. I might get hurt and never play again. But as long as I’m giving 100%, that’s all I can ask about myself.

Edward Sugimoto) You have any words of advice for your young fans out there?

Shane Victorino) Yeah. I think the kids in Hawaii, like I said earlier, I think a lot of Hawaii kids don’t understand, and they struggle with the fact of leaving home. To me, my advice to them is hey, if you get the opportunity, leave. Take the chance, see what’s out there. Work hard as a little kid and work hard now because when you work hard now, it’ll help you in the end. I was one of those kids where I was blessed by God. I had a lot of natural abilities. I didn’t work as hard as some of my friends, and I always say to myself if I did, how much better a player would I have been when I first got to the big leagues? But you know, I think with hard work and dedication, a lot of things can happen.

Edward Sugimoto) And how about your general fans? Message to them?

Shane Victorino) General fans? Thank you guys for everything. Thank you for voting me to the All Star game. Just enjoy. I think when you come to watch our team, that’s what we do. We go out there, we have fun, we try the best we can, and we play the game hard, and we just try to go out and win every night.

Right back atcha Bruddah Shane. Mahaloz for making all of us in Hawaii so very proud. Keep on playing the game with that intensity and heart and only good things will come. But I’m sure you already know this, as failure has never been in your vocabulary. V is for Victorino. Victorino No Ka Oi!

Me and Bruddah Shane
Me and Bruddah Shane

Ed’s Notes:

Shortly after this interview, Victorino strangely got ejected from the game (in centerfield!) by home plate umpire Ed Rapuano for throwing his arms up in the air (following a bad call). The Phillies lost the game and was ultimately swept by the Marlins, further diminishing their lead in the NL East.

Yikes.

A couple games later, in a matchup against the Chicago Cubs, he was doused with beer by a rabid Cubs fan – while trying to make a routine catch.

Eek.

Could it be? Could my interview with Bruddah Shane, in some strange way, possibly have put some kind of curse on the Phils? No. Can’t be! Riiight?

Thankfully, the Phils broke out in a big way, going 14-5 since then and is now sitting atop the NL East with a handsome 7 and a half game lead (as of 08/31). So you can actually say that this interview gave them good luck going into the post-season! You’re welcome fellow Philly fans! 😉

A big Mahaloz to: Ted Nakamura, Leonard Nakahashi, Shane’s mom, Josh Goldberg of the Beverly Hills Sports Council, Greg Casterioto and Deanna Sabec of the Phillies organization, Bari Carroll, and of course Bruddah Shane Victorino.

MLB Home Run Derby Today!

July 14, 2008

Marking the halfway point to the Major League Baseball 2008 season, the MLB All-Star festivities’ popular home run derby contest kicks off today at 2PM Hawaii Standard Time on ESPN. Sponsored by State Farm, the battle of the (long) bombers, like the All-Star Game itself, takes place at historic Yankee Stadium, the last time ever before the new Yankee Stadium becomes the home of the New York Yankees. The 8 participants (four from each league) this year are:

National League

American League

Talk to me!
Who you rootin’ for? Even though he’s not one of the biggest players of the bunch, as a Phillies fan, I gotta go with my boy Chase Utley. My other picks are Lance Berkman (experience) and Josh Hamilton (bruddah is huge!). Tune in to see why Baseball is one of the most exciting sports on earth. 😛

All-Star Game 2008
Today: State Farm Home Run Derby @ 2PM on Digital Channel 0222 (ESPN) or HD ESPN 1222.
Tomorrow: 79th MLB All-Star Game @ 2PM on Digital Channel 0003 (KHON) or HD KHON 1003.

In other news, Vai Sikahema knocked out Jose Canseco in the first round of their celebrity boxing match on Saturday (as first mentioned in a previous post).