Shane Victorino, now with Red Sox, says he wanted to return to Phillies

"I wanted to come back. We kept in touch and informed them on what was going on and the opportunities I was getting. We gave them every last shot to give me an opportunity to come back. This was the place I wanted to be. But unfortunately it didn't work out." (Elise Amendola/AP)
Inquirer Staff Writer

Shane Victorino strolled into a playroom at the Nicetown building that bears his name Friday and spoke to about 50 children. He told them to study hard, listen to their parents, and then asked if there were any questions.

"What team do you play for?" one boy said.

Victorino grinned.

"Unfortunately," he said, "I don't play for the Phillies anymore. I play for the Boston Red Sox now."

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  • This was a "bittersweet" day, Victorino said. He returned to Philadelphia for the one-year anniversary celebration of the Shane Victorino Nicetown Boys & Girls Club - a building his wife, Melissa, and he helped renovate with a $900,000 donation.

    Victorino, traded by the Phillies in July to the Los Angeles Dodgers, signed a three-year, $39 million deal with Boston in December. He spent the last eight springs with the Phillies, and said preparing for a new atmosphere is an exciting challenge.

    But he did not hide his feelings. This winter, Philadelphia was his first choice.

    "Oh yeah, absolutely," Victorino said. "I focused on that. I wanted to come back. We kept in touch and informed them on what was going on and the opportunities I was getting. We gave them every last shot to give me an opportunity to come back. This was the place I wanted to be. But unfortunately it didn't work out."

    The Phillies, after dealing Victorino at the trade deadline, never engaged in serious negotiations with their longtime centerfielder. Instead, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. acquired Ben Revere via a trade with Minnesota as he remade the outfield.

    Victorino, 32, suffered through a career-worst season in 2012. But he still cashed in and will man right field for Boston.

    Eight years in one city, a place where Victorino made his career and emerged as a fan favorite, created emotional ties. His charitable activities forged an even stronger bond with Philadelphia.

    "This will always be home for me," Victorino said. "No matter what."

    The feelings were simply not mutual in baseball terms. That does not preclude respect. Phillies president David Montgomery and other team officials attended Friday's event.

    "I look at all the memories I've left here and I will always have here," Victorino said. "You never say never. Will I never be a Phillie again? Who knows? But right now I'm a Red Sox and I'm focused on that opportunity. Every time I come back to this city, the memories rekindle.

    "To be able to walk into this place, a place that bears my name, was very important to me and this community. These kids can call this place home."

    Victorino also praised Revere, his replacement.

    "He's going to be loved here," Victorino said. "You know why? Because he plays the game correctly and plays it hard."

    Phillies fans will have a chance to formally show their gratitude for Victorino's service May 29-30, when the Red Sox play a two-game interleague series at Citizens Bank Park. "To be a visiting player in my home park," he said, "it's going to be fun."

    Victorino hugged Montgomery and the two briefly chatted.

    "See you guys in May," he said, extending his right hand.

    He turned to the kids and yelled, "Who wants cake?"

    Extra bases. The Phillies' season opener at Atlanta will be televised nationally by ESPN2 on April 1 at 7 p.m. It is the first time since 2009 the Phillies will open at night. . . . Nelson Prada, 36, was hired to manage short-season single-A Williamsport. Prada managed the last eight seasons in the Twins organization.

     


    Contact Matt Gelb at mgelb@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @magelb.

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