BOSTON — For the first six minutes of his goodbye news conference late Monday night, Shane Victorino kept it together.
He joked with reporters. He talked about the good times — the unforgettable World Series run in 2013 — and the not-so-good — his various injuries that have cost him the bulk of the last season-and-a-half.
He acknowledged that while he did not want to leave the Boston Red Sox, the team that acquired him, the Los Angeles Angels, has a legitimate shot at winning a title this season.
Then, when the conversation turned to the teammates he’ll no longer share a clubhouse with, the veteran outfielder no longer could keep his emotions in check.
“I look forward to going to, obviously, to Anaheim and getting an opportunity to make a postseason run,” Victorino said. “I wish nothing but the best for the guys here. That’s the toughest part.”
After a long pause, the tears that had been welling up in Victorino’s eyes since he sat down in the Fenway Park interview room spilled out.
“People doubted me in 2012,” he said, choking back sobs as he spoke. “And the Red Sox gave me a chance. To win a World Series, it’s one of those things … I have a lot of respect for John Henry, Larry Lucchino, Tom (Werner), Ben (Cherington) and John (Farrell), and more importantly, my teammates. I mean, I’m going to miss them, you know? I think that’s the toughest part, is understanding and coming to wits now at the end of this conference that, I’m going to miss these guys.”
The fact that Victorino was unable to keep up the torrid pace he set in 2013 has led some to forget just how integral a part of that team he was, and that’s a shame. As both Farrell and Cherington said Monday, the Red Sox’s third World Series championship in 10 years would not have been possible without Victorino’s contributions.
Heck, they might not have even made it out of the American League Championship Series had it not been for his Game 6 grand slam, which will live on as one of the seminal moments of Red Sox playoff lore.
Victorino’s on-field contributions diminished over the following two seasons as a grab bag of injuries limited him to 30 games in 2014 and 33 so far this year. But it was clear from his reaction to Monday’s that his love for the Red Sox and the city of Boston never did.
“Ah, this sucks,” he said, this time while talking about the phenomenon his walk-up song, “Three Little Birds,” became during the 2013 playoff run. “It’s just one of those things (where) you bite down and you try to move on.”
(The song, Victorino said, will not be moving on. He plans to adopt a new one out of “respect of Red Sox Nation.”)
By most measures, the trade puts Victorino into a better situation. The Mike Trout- and Albert Pujols-led Angels are loaded with talent, and L.A. is a great deal closer to Victorino’s native Hawaii than Boston is. If all works according to plan, he’ll be adding third World Series ring to his trophy case this October.
He will not forget his time in Boston, though, and he hopes the city will return the favor.
“What am I going to be remembered as in a city like this?” he asked. “I hope people remember me one way and understand injuries are not something that any athlete wants to face. I hope I’ll be remembered for what happened in ’13. We use that slogan that will always be a part of us: Boston Strong.”
Thumbnail photo via Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports Images