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|Just don't call him "Pineapple Express."|
This article appears in the May 5 issue of ESPN The Magazine.
KM: Were you nervous about visiting the White House as a World Series champ?
SV: No, I was as excited as a little kid.
KM: Don't you think it's unfair, though, that the invites get cut off at a certain point? Like, you know, the top tetherball team doesn't get to go.
SV: Right. Not even every Olympic gold medalist goes.
KM: Being from a vacation spot like Maui, did you avoid the touristy stuff?
SV: Yes. In fact, in my second year of pro ball I visited Medicine Hat, in Alberta, with my Canadian roommate. After that, he spent a month with me in Hawaii, and we did all the vacation things. At one point I said, "What was I thinking missing all of this growing up?"
KM: I looked it up. I found only one other guy from Maui who made it to the majors, Tony Rago of the St. Louis Browns. Is that true?
SV: There are three of us, actually. Kurt Suzuki, the A's catcher, grew up five minutes from me. We all get homesick.
KM: Do people always ask you this many questions about where you're from?
SV: I get a lot of questions about pineapples. My brother and friends actually picked pineapples. It's a popular job for kids. To me, it sounds like the worst job ever.
KM: Isn't Pineapple Express one of your nicknames?
SV: Yes, but I prefer Flyin' Hawaiian.
KM: I think my sister stole a pineapple when we were there.
SV: People do that all the time. They just pull up to the side of a field and grab one.
KM: Is that insulting?
SV: No. Don't steal a lava rock, though. Pele, the fire goddess, doesn't like that at all.
KM: When you play on the West Coast, do you take your teammates surfing on off-days?
SV: You're not going to believe this, but I've never surfed.
KM: Can't they take away your Hawaiian citizenship for that?
SV: They haven't yet.
KM: You spent a lot of years in the minors before getting your break. Do you think Philly fans relate to you because you're more of a blue-collar guy?
SV: I tell people I want to play the game as hard as I can until they take the jersey off my back. Philly fans are hardworking people; they want to see guys play hard too.
KM: Did you ever think about quitting?
SV: I remember being so frustrated after a game against the Tennessee Smokies, I called my dad and said, "I'm done." And he said, "If you come home, don't think you can ever go back. I told you from Day One you can never give up." So I went to the park the next day and just kept plugging away.
KM: Do you get recognized more since you won the Series?
SV: Oh yeah, definitely. I live in Vegas in the winter, and people call out my name in casinos and when I'm out at dinner.
KM: That didn't happen much when you were visiting Medicine Hat?
SV: It sure didn't. I'm still always freezing, though. That hasn't changed.