Sunday, March 3, 2013
A Red, White and Blue Hawaiian
By Gordon Edes
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Team USA jersey Shane Victorino wore four years ago, the one he got signed by all of his teammates at the World Baseball Classic, is hanging on a wall in his home.
Soon, he should have a matching set.
Victorino, who left here Sunday morning for Arizona, is one of six players on Team USA returning for another go-round in the WBC. Heath Bell, Ryan Braun, Jimmy Rollins and David Wright were among his teammates in 2009; Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira played in the inaugural WBC in 2006 and is back seven years later.
Victorino was a late addition to the ’09 team, added in late February after Indians center fielder Grady Sizemore was injured. This time, he was on Joe Torre’s list of players the manager sought to invite. He was not a tough sell. Unlike many players, who view the WBC as an unwanted disruption to their preparation for the season, a sentiment shared by plenty of front offices who don’t want to see their prized commodities depart from camp, Victorino embraces the whole experience.
“To represent your country is something you dream of as a child,’’ Victorino said. “Putting on a USA jersey, I never thought growing up in Hawaii I’d wear a USA jersey and put on No. 50, to represent my state. I’m excited to wear 50 again. I’m pumped.’’
While there are numerous big names missing from the US roster, including aces Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw and emerging stars such as Bryce Harper and Mike Trout, Victorino chafes at the notion that this is a B-movie cast for what is touted as a premiere event.
For all the omissions, this team still features three former MVPs -- Braun, Joe Mauer and Jimmy Rollins -- and a Cy Young Award winner, R.A. Dickey, plus All-Stars such as Wright, Rollins and Adam Jones, and young slugger Giancarlo Stanton.
“Will you ever get all the best players in the world on the field? I don’t think you’ll ever get that,’’ Victorino said, noting there is no ideal time to stage the event, “but you put together the best team you possibly can.
“We arguably are the best players, when you look at the accolades we’ve won. We may not be the top premier [players], but we’re not far from that. I’m not knocking down anyone who is going for the chance to represent his country. That’s why I do it, and the other guys do it.’’
Victorino in recent days has crossed paths with both Mauer and Jones, and he said they were as excited as he is about playing. And he said Torre has assured him he’ll get his at-bats and playing time, though he probably projects as the fourth outfielder behind Braun, Jones and Stanton.
In 2009, Victorino shared the outfield with Braun, Curtis Granderson and Brad Hawpe. He had six hits, all singles, in 19 at-bats.
“Joe promised us we’d get our at-bats and playing time,’’ Victorino said. “Being versatile and playing all the outfield positions will help me get at-bats.’’
How much is Victorino into this thing? He said after the Sox game Friday night, he went home and watched some of the Taiwan-Australia first-round game on TV.