Shane Victorino strolled Friday into a playroom at the Nicetown building that bears his name and spoke to some 50 kids. He told them to study hard, listen to their parents, and then asked if there were any questions.
"What team do you play for?" one boy said.
"Unfortunately," he said, "I don't play for the Phillies anymore. I play for the Boston Red Sox now."
This was a "bittersweet" day, Victorino admitted. He returned to Philadelphia for the one-year anniversary celebration of the Shane Victorino Nicetown Boys and Girls Club -- a building his wife, Melissa, and he helped renovate with a $900,000 donation.
Victorino, traded by the Phillies last July to Los Angeles, signed a three-year, $39 million deal with Boston in December. He spent the last eight springs with the Phillies, and said preparing for a new atmosphere is an exciting challenge.
But he did not hide his feelings. This winter, Philadelphia was his first choice.
"Oh yeah, absolutely," Victorino said. "I focused on that. I wanted to come back. We kept in touch and informed them on what was going on and the opportunities I was getting. We gave them every last shot to give me an opportunity to come back. This was the place I wanted to be. But unfortunately it didn't work out."
The Phillies, after dealing Victorino at the trade deadline, never engaged in serious negotiations with their longtime centerfielder as they remake their outfield. Instead, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. acquired Ben Revere via a trade with Minnesota.
Victorino, 32, suffered through a career-worst season in 2012. He still cashed in and will man right field for Boston.
Eight years in one city, a place where Victorino made his career and emerged as a fan favorite, will stir emotions. His charitable activities forged an even stronger bond with Philadelphia.
"This will always be home for me," Victorino said. "No matter what."
For more, read Saturday's Inquirer.
Have a question? Send it to Matt Gelb's Mailbag.