JACK MCCARTHY, FOR THE DAILY NEWS
POSTED: Friday, May 24, 2013, 1:04 AM
CHICAGO – Shane Victorino can’t wait to get back to Philadelphia.
It has been nearly 10 months since the Phillies dealt the popular outfielder to the Los Angeles Dodgers, a journey that continued on to Boston when he signed 3-year, $39 million contract in the offseason.
Victorino returns to Citizens Bank Park – the scene of memorable personal and team triumphs – for the first time Wednesday when the Red Sox visit for a two-game interleague series.
But first, Victorino’s Red Sox host the Phillies on Memorial Day and Tuesday at Fenway Park. He missed his third straight game last night with a hamstring injury and is listed as day-to-day, but should be ready for the Phillies.
“I’m definitely excited,” Victorino said this week during Boston’s series against the White Sox. “I spent eight seasons there – pretty much the life of who I am as a baseball player and who I became. It will always have a special place in my heart and I’ll never forget it.”
The 32-year-old “Flyin’ Hawaiian,” was a pending free agent on a noncontending Phillies team last July when they traded him to the Dodgers for minor league pitcher Ethan Martin and Josh Lindblom (who went to Texas in the Michael Young trade).
He has settled in comfortably in Boston, delivering productive numbers despite occasional bumps and bruises attributed to his take-no-prisoners playing style. In 34 games, he is batting .283 (.346 with runners in scoring position) with a .343 on-base percentage, two homers, four doubles and 10 runs batted in, batting from the two-hole most of the time and playing rightfield as opposed to his usual centerfield spot with the Phillies.
He had numerous highlights during eight Phillies seasons, including two All-Star Game appearances, three Gold Glove awards and honors from Major League Baseball for community service work.
Then there was that 2008 championship season.
“Winning the World Series was obviously the most special day,” he said. “Being able to jump on that pile, hug all my teammates and go into the locker room and celebrate and go back out and celebrate with the fans, that’s the kind of stuff that will never leave me.”
When Pat Burrell, another star on the 2008 World Series team, returned to Citizens Bank Park with the San Francisco Giants in 2010, he was given a nice ovation when he came to bat. But then he ruined it by hitting a home run, and got booed.
“I don’t know how I’m going to handle it, if it’s going to be an emotional time for me,” Victorino said.
“I’ve been around the game a little bit now and to see former players who have had an impact – for instance a guy like Jim Thome or others I’ve played with through the years – come back and watch the ovations and see the fans’ appreciation for them as players, I’m definitely excited.
"Fortunately for me, I was able to be a fan favorite and be a part of Phillies history of baseball – a very good part – and a great run that we had there. Obviously last year there was a bump in the road for the organization and not getting into the playoffs after 5 straight years.
"I [still] pay attention from afar.”
Beyond baseball, Victorino also maintained strong personal connections. He made scores of friends in the region and left a lasting legacy with a charitable foundation and the Shane Victorino Nicetown Boys and Girls Club.
“To be able to be accepted in the community, the support I got for my foundation and being able to be a person who gave back to the community [with] my Boys and Girls Club there … it’ll always have a special place for me,” he said. “I always say, what I did on the baseball field helped me do what I did off the field.”
Victorino and his wife, Melissa, donated $900,000 to help renovate the Nicetown building, home to a 111-year old club that’s among the original Boys and Girls Clubs of America.
“It’s going to be there the rest of my life and my kids can go back and say ‘Look at this,’ ” he said. “That’s the kind of stuff that will always stand out.”
Victorino made two impressive catches last Thursday at Tampa Bay, including a wall-banging grab in rightfield. It was his second wall confrontation this month after he unsuccessfully went after a home-run ball at Fenway on May 12.
He sat out 2 days nursing a sore back but returned Sunday in the finale of a road series at Minnesota. Victorino also played in Monday’s opener of three-game series at Chicago’s U.S. Cellular Field, going 1-for-3 with a single. He left in the sixth inning with hamstring tightness and has been on the mend since then.
Victorino was said to have been unhappy the Phillies traded him, and that they didn’t make a serious run at him in free agency.
“It was tough, but understanding that baseball is a business … ” he said. “Things happen, and as a player you want to stay in one place because you’ve made that home.”
On the other hand, the Red Sox have defied preseason forecasts with their 28-19 start.
“As I look at it now, the last 2 months have been a great experience for me,” Victorino said. “Going to a place like Boston and being a Red Sox now and being a part of a different fan base … to be a part of that is great fun.”