By Zack Meisel / MLB.com | 4/23/2013 12:44 P.M. ET
Where Shane Victorino grew up, he could reach the beach with a 10-minute drive, no matter which direction he steered his vehicle.
His uncles took him diving and fishing on the weekends, and he exploited the endless sunshine by playing sports year-round.
When he searched for a new team over the winter, Victorino sought a destination rife with qualities representative of those from his hometown of Wailuku, a Hawaiian community at the base of the West Maui Volcano.
Alas, he opted for the rugged shores of Boston.
What the heart of New England lacks in black-sand beaches and tropical-drink-sipping vacationers, however, it compensates with a populace of passionate, blue-collar citizens, similar to those who frequent the Ka’ahumanu Church or catch a Golden Baseball League game at Maehara Stadium.
“People sometimes think, ‘Oh, you live in Hawaii. It’s so different,’” Victorino said. “There’s honestly nothing different, except you have the sun most of the year.”
The perceived portrait of paradise isn’t without merit. As Victorino explained: “I can sit on my island and look across the ocean and see the next island.”
But beneath the sandy surface, behind the facade of a blissful utopia, resides an island full of genuine, hardworking people, much like the ones who call Boston home.
“It gets lost, because people think it’s just a vacation spot,” Victorino said, “but no, these people work hard every day.”
It hasn’t taken Victorino long to discover that Boston bears a resemblance to the neighborhood with which he’s familiar. It became especially evident last week, when the Boston Marathon bombers claimed the lives of three, injured nearly 200 and tested the willpower of the entire area.
“You talk about a city coming together as one to bond and unite and stand up and prevail,” Victorino said. “I’m not saying that it wouldn’t happen anywhere else, but with the passion and pride for the city of Boston, it’s not shocking that it’s happening.”
The fight to persevere through tragedy reminded Victorino of his roots and his resilient mother, who, in addition to working for a major union, would clean her office to procure a secondary source of income.
“I remember my mom getting up and going to clean at 1 a.m.,” Victorino said. “I’d get up that next morning and breakfast was made. Sometimes she wouldn’t sleep. Whatever it took to provide and put food on the table, and for my brother and I to get a good education, she would do.”
Victorino lives in Las Vegas during the offseason, but he regularly returns to Hawaii, where his lineage dates back “at least five or six generations.” Thus, he’s well-versed in his town’s history. He can recite the tale behind one of Wailuku’s landmarks, Iao Needle, a symbol at the site of one of the region’s most gruesome, consequential battles in the 18th century.
History and tradition lured Victorino to Boston. He remembers learning about the Boston Tea Party in grade school. He appreciates the patience and dedication exhibited by Red Sox fans who waited nearly nine decades between World Series triumphs. As an opposing player, he savored every moment he roamed the outfield at Fenway Park, marveling at such institutions as the Green Monster and the singing of “Sweet Caroline.”
“Things like that,” Victorino said, “coming in as an opposing player and listening to that whole stadium get up on their feet and sing that song, that’s what it’s all about.”
Victorino isn’t alone in his thinking.
“[Bostonians] love everything about the city and embrace every part of it,” said third baseman Will Middlebrooks. “They’re passionate. It’s good when people are mad when you lose. The pressure to win is always there. It pushes us to play better.”
Victorino hasn’t needed the extra push so far. In 17 games, the right fielder is batting .308 and reaching base at a .378 clip. He saved Wednesday’s victory over the Indians when, on a dead sprint, he extended his glove above his head to corral a bases-loaded laser off the bat of Asdrubal Cabrera.
“He can bunt. He’s got pop,” said catcher David Ross. “He’ll take you deep. He might steal a bag. He plays Gold Glove defense. He throws people out. I can’t say enough good things about him.”
Last Saturday, the Red Sox returned to Yawkey Way, where they provided a momentary reprieve for a city handed an unimaginable burden. Victorino hasn’t been a part of the Boston culture for long, but he knew what to expect.
“To drive back through that area and understand what has really happened in the tragedy and aftermath, if there’s one city that’s going to prevail, it’s going to be Boston,” Victorino said.
“It’s my first year here, but just being here for this short period of time, you can just tell the unification of the city. That’s the kind of stuff you take pride in.”
From his condo in downtown Boston, Victorino can head one way toward Copley Square or another for a stroll down the Freedom Trail. It’s not Hawaii, but to Victorino and those who live there, it’s a paradise in its own right.