He played for 12 seasons and he won two rings. The Flyin’ Hawaiian left a legacy of infectious fire, energy, and intensity.
The Phillies hope he infects Odubel Herrera.
Shane Victorino arrived at spring training Thursday for a five-day stint as a guest instructor. The Phillies sent two teams to games Thursday afternoon. Victorino didn’t go. He stayed and watched Herrera hit in a minor-league game, by design.
Victorino, the Phillies’ hard-nosed center fielder when they won the 2008 World Series, spent most of the morning telling the Phillies’ current center fielder he needs to harden his own nose.
“I’m learning some of his challenges,” said Victorino, alluding to Herrera’s problems with focus and effort -- problems Victorino conquered to make it to the majors, and problems that keep Herrera from reaching his potential. “You know what you got out of me every single day, Brah; 162, I was coming. If we can get him dialed in? I don’t know ...”
As Herrera, 27, enters his fifth season in the majors, he has earned the reputation as a player prone to lapses in the field, at the plate, and on the base paths. He understands why Victorino sought him out.
“He talked to me this morning. He gave me some good advice,” Herrera said. “He told me: ‘Bring it. Every day. Every game. Every pitch.’”
Victorino played with the Padres, Phillies, and Dodgers, then won a second World Series with the Red Sox in 2013 before being traded to the Angels in 2015.
He played to win every second of every game, regardless of the score or the standings. He hit .275, stole 231 bases, and won four Gold Glove awards before injuries finished him in 2015.
Victorino might have avoided some of those injuries if he’d done less flyin’, and more cruisin’ -- but then, the flyin’ is what brought the winning.
“Winning is all I cared about,” he said. “That’s what I want to instill in these guys.”
The Phillies want that, too. That’s why they invite former players such as Scott Rolen and Jimmy Rollins to camp. It’s why Mike Schmidt will speak to the team Friday.
“We love to get perspective from guys who have been winners. They know what it’s like to celebrate. They know what it’s like to grind. They can share some of the things it takes to be successful in Philadelphia,” manager Gabe Kapler said.
When told that Victorino had already begun mentoring Herrera, Kapler beamed.
“One of the things we’re always hoping for is that our legends -- our former players -- pick out guys they feel they can have an impact on,” Kapler said. “Looking for characteristics in a current player that they exhibited. And then, they’re able to provide that perspective.”
“We’re comparable,” said Victorino.
Their compatibility goes beyond their similar pasts, as raw outfield talents who went through the Rule 5 wringer to land in Philadelphia. All cocky, young players can benefit from the wisdom of formerly cocky, young players.
“You think, ‘Yeah, I’ve got the answers. There’s a reason why I’m here in the majors’ “ Victorino said. “I thought the same thing about old, veteran players: ‘What do you really have to offer?’ Well, there’s the pedigree of wanting to be a winner.”
That desire requires maximum effort through good times and bad.
Victorino has seen the bad. The Rule 5 draft stipulates that players must remain on the major-league rosters of the drafting team. Victorino struggled, so both the Padres and the Phillies sent Victorino back to the Dodgers -- but, in 2004, the Dodgers wouldn’t take him back from the Phils. That’ll sting the ego.
“I was there -- when I didn’t care about the game, or the game became secondary because I wasn’t doing good,” Victorino said. “You’ve got to show up for 162, plain and simple. If you’re not willing to do that, this game is hard.”
It is not a game for cowards.
"I said, ‘You ever thought checking yourself from a mental standpoint? How much deeper you’ve got to dig? When the biggest moments were on the line, I said to myself, “What do I have to lose? I’m supposed to fail,' " Victorino said. " ‘I played with the baddest dudes because of my mental aspect.’ ”
Victorino isn’t visiting just to be the rah-rah Yoda. He wonders if the game has become too immersed in analytics for his taste. Only 38, fit and healthy, he is rich in knowledge and still a ball of energy. But can he stomach a sport that is increasingly played on a computer?
“We talk about it every day: ‘launch angle,’ and ‘spin rate,’ and analytics. The analytics and statistics have formatted the game from a strategy standpoint, but has it affected the mentality? I feel that’s not being taught,” Victorino said. “I’m coming here to find out if I can be a part of the game today.”
Thursday was the first day of the experiment. He spoke to players, saw Herrera rip a line-drive out in a rehab game (he’s nursing a hamstring injury), threw extra batting practice in the batting cage, and sat through Bryce Harper’s long, violent hitting session -- then picked the brain of the $330 million man.
“I’m here to learn,” Victorino said. "Why wouldn’t I say, ‘Hey, Bryce, what’s your mentality?’ "
They have the same mentality: all-out. On Wednesday night, in his second start in right field, Harper dived for a line drive. He then stole second base. He slid head-first. In spring training.
That’s the sort of intensity that fuels Victorino, who nearly went stir-crazy the first 2 1/2 years out of baseball.
“To not have this, every day, part of my life -- yes, it got hard,” he said, pointing to the four fields at the Carpenter Complex.
“Did I sit there sometimes and have [crappy] thoughts? Like, ‘Brah, what am I going to do with my life? I’m a loser now.' Let’s be honest. I was doing nothing. I dropped my kids off at 8, then I sat around till 3 o’clock. I can only play so much golf. I can only make so many phones calls and talk to my friends. They’ve got 9-to-5 jobs.”
Victorino’s days are fuller now. As his father, Mike, successfully ran a campaign for mayor of Maui County last year, Shane became involved with initiatives ranging from affordable housing to hemp farming -- not surprising, since he walked up to reggae music for most of his career and he named his son Kingston, after the Jamaican city where Bob Marley was raised.
Kingston is 8. His sister, Kali’a, is 11. Victorino wants to keep his family in Las Vegas, where he has spent most of his adult life. Maybe he can become a special adviser for the Phillies, like former teammate Rollins.
Herrera, for one, needs all the advising Victorino can offer.