How can you not love Philadelphia Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino after Game 5 of the NLCS? That is, unless you're PETA, which issued one of its silly press releases the other day about the Hawaii native's love for Spam. But never mind about that.
Victorino is small and scrappy and fast and is good at a lot of things. This column, like a lot of baseball fans, has a soft spot for guys like that. One of my favorite players growing up was Davey Lopes, the Phillies' first-base coach, who fit the description in his playing days.
On Wednesday Fox had Victorino miked. The miking of players usually results in a lot less interesting sound than it ought to because the TV networks tend to choose clips of the players exchanging banalities in the dugout, but Fox has been doing a nice job during these playoffs, capturing several interesting conversations, including one in Game 4 in which home-plate umpire Ted Barrett remarked that the game balls were too slick, they hadn't been rubbed up properly.
With the caveat that you can't know a guy through the media even if he's talking on your TV every night for 20 years, never mind trying to know him through three sound bites, Victorino came across Wednesday as an incredibly likable baseball player. That is, not like a baseball player.
After he'd been intentionally walked in the third inning, he was sitting in the dugout next to bench coach Jimy Williams. "Jimy," he said, leaning over conspiratorially, "never in my wildest dreams I ever thought I would get an intentional walk." He sounded like he was telling Williams where the bodies were buried.
Before Wednesday, Victorino had been walked intentionally three times in his big-league career, covering 487 regular-season games. What's funny is he was intentionally walked again later in the night.
In the fifth inning Victorino reached second base right after Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal had made his third error of the inning. The microphone caught Victorino telling Furcal, who is three years older and a far more accomplished player, "Keep your head up, buddy, come on." Furcal forced a half-smile and appeared to say, "Nah, I'm all right, man."
In the seventh Victorino was aboard again, at first base following a single. After a pitch to Pedro Feliz, Dodgers catcher Russell Martin made a snap throw to first to try to pick Victorino off. He dived back to the bag head first and the ball cracked into his ribs. This time it wasn't his microphone, which wasn't live, but the microphone embedded in the first base bag that picked up his groan. Then he held up his hand and said, "Time, please."
Please! What a guy.