WAILEA - In his first interview after agreeing to a three-year, $39 million contract with the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday - the largest ever for a Hawaii-born player - Shane Victorino felt a little like he was returning home.
Victorino, the only Maui-born All-Star in major league history, talked exclusively about his new contract with The Maui News at a reception at Spago restaurant in Wailea for celebrities who will particate in his charity golf tournament.
"It's great, an opportunity for me to go to an organization and a team that has had success and have won World Series in recent years," the 1999 St. Anthony High School graduate said. "To get an opportunity to go back and play baseball on the East Coast, somewhere close to where I played seven, eight seasons (with Philadelphia) and also to an organization that has that aura and that prestige, it's great."
Shane Victorino, who played for the Los Angeles Dodgers at the end of last season, is projected to play right field for the Boston Red?Sox.
ANDREW JACOBY photo
The Red Sox tradition was a big factor for Victorino.
"The organization, the way it is run, the people there," he said. "The last two years have been rough for them coming off so many successful years, but I think it is an opportunity for me to go out there, have fun, enjoy playing in front of a great fan base and, you know, I'm so excited for the opportunity."
Victorino is on Maui this week to host a celebrity event that will benefit his foundation.
One of the guests here is Brandon League, the former Saint Louis School pitcher who was a teammate of Victorino's with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012 after Victorino was traded there from Philadelphia in July.
League said the contract shows Victorino is among the best ever from the 50th state.
"Absolutely," he said. "Growing up you think of baseball players like Benny Agbayani, Mike Fetters, Lenny Sakata, Mike Lum, Sid Fernandez, there are a lot of guys (from Hawaii), but to be mentioned with those guys, I'm sure is humbling for Shane."
Victorino, who turned 32 on Friday, set a career high with 39 stolen bases last year. His batting average of .255 was a career low for a full season.
But Victorino, the 1999 Maui News Boys Maui Interscholastic League Athlete of the Year, hit 11 home runs with 55 RBIs and 72 runs.
New teammate Jon Lester Tweeted: "Added another great addition to our team! Congrats man, pumped to have you out there behind me."
In nine seasons in the big leagues, Victorino has a .275 average, and his 90 homers are tied with Lum for the most by a Hawaii-born major leaguer. Victorino has driven in 409 runs, and his 201 stolen bases ranks first among players from the Aloha State.
Victorino's career has been spent primarily as a center fielder, and he won three consecutive Gold Gloves with the Phillies from 2008 to 2010.
Victorino said he will most likely play right field for Boston, and as a swith hitter, will most likely bat second. The team's contract with current center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, a lead-off hitter, will expire after the 2013 season.
Fenway Park has a large right field - the fence in deep right is 380 feet from home plate, and the distance down the line is 302.
"I have played a few times in Fenway in interleague," Victorino said. "I have always said in my interviews over the years that my two favorite opposing parks are Wrigley (Field in Chicago) and Fenway. Getting an opportunity to go there and play right field, to go there and be a home player, I'm excited and proud and happy."
Boston manager John Farrell said he is confident the speedy Victorino can take care of the position. Victorino played right field in 114 of 117 games with the Phillies in 2007. His next most appearances in right in a season was 21 games in 2006.
"It's probably the toughest right field in baseball to play, just in terms of the space to cover," Farrell was quoted as saying on the team's website, "so that range comes into play. It might not be your prototypical right fielder where it's a power bat, because we do value the defense in that area. That's not to exclude anyone, but defense takes a high priority, in that position at Fenway particularly."
Victorino had nine assists last season, tied for sixth among National League outfielders. In 2011, he did not commit an error in 296 total chances.
Victorino was named to the NL All-Star team in 2009 and 2011. His 1,060 hits, 195 doubles, 65 triples and 616 runs also top the lists among Hawaii-born players.
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org