The Flyin’ Hawaiian said, “Aloha,” to Boston legend status Saturday.
Shane Victorino, who signed last offseason as a free agent, soared into the hearts of Red Sox fans this year with his hard-nosed style of play. On Saturday, Victorino reached new heights within the Boston sports landscape by smacking one of the biggest home runs in Red Sox history.
Victorino was mired in a 2-for-23 skid when he stepped into the batter’s box to face Tigers reliever Jose Veras with the bases loaded and the Red Sox trailing 2-1 in the seventh inning of Game 6 of the ALCS. Visions of August home runs and wall-rattling grabs were quickly being replaced by off-balance swings and frequent displays of frustration. It didn’t appear that things were going to change, either, as Veras jumped ahead in the count, 0-2.
“I told myself to get a pitch I can handle,” Victorino said while walking through the at-bat. “Try to tie the game, at the minimal. Give ourselves [a chance]. Get us back in the game and give us another chance. Fortunately, I got an 0-2 curveball that I could handle and was able to hit a home run.”
Victorino thought curveball, saw curveball and hit curveball. The 10-year veteran stayed back on Veras’ 0-2 offering, and lifted a fly ball down the left field line that landed atop the Green Monster for a go-ahead grand slam. What slump?
“Lots of thoughts were going through my head, how I was going to explain not getting that bunt down [in the sixth inning], all these kinds of emotions,” Victorino said. “When I got up, [I thought] do what you do best, go out and have fun doing what you’re doing. And it worked this time.”
Victorino does a lot of things well, but silencing critics is his biggest strength. There were plenty of skeptics around baseball — not just in Boston — when Victorino signed a three-year, $39 million contract with the Red Sox in the offseason. The prevailing thought was that the 32-year-old was a nice player, but no longer a game-changer. It wasn’t anything that Victorino hadn’t heard before.
“Hey, it’s not the first time my back was against the wall or people doubted me,” Victorino said, referring to those who insisted that the Red Sox drop him in the order amid his ALCS struggles. “And I say it in a positive way that I’ve always been that kind of guy. It’s been my drive. People said, ‘You’re a little too small. I don’t know if you can ever get to the big leagues.’ A scout told my mom in high school, ‘He’ll never be a major league player. He’ll never get there.’ It’s stuff [like that] that motivates me. Lucky enough, it worked out for me.”
It sure did work out for Victorino. His Game 6 grand slam not only helped send the Red Sox to the World Series, but it also created what will undoubtedly be revered as an iconic image in Boston’s illustrious sports history. Victorino — passionate to his core — pounded his chest while rounding the bases in front of a crowd and a group of teammates that had become completely unglued.
“I was definitely excited running around the bases, the pounding in my chest,” Victorino said. “I’ve been that kind of guy. I don’t like when teams show that kind of emotion, and I hope [the Tigers] understand it was a special moment for me, for the city. And no respect. The guys we played across the way, the Tigers, I respect those guys like no other. … It was a special moment.”
The only thing that could make Victorino’s ALCS grand slam even more special is an ensuing World Series victory. The Cardinals stand in the way, but following another incredible moment for the Red Sox, it’s hard not to feel like “every little thing is gonna be alright” in Boston.