Hawaiian pride: Victorino, others laud play of Tua

Tagovailoa's performance in title game delights baseball world

January 10th, 2018

PHILADELPHIA -- Shane Victorino watched most of Monday night's National Championship game on a flight home from the Bahamas.

But the former Phillies outfielder missed the game's biggest moment after he switched planes in Dallas. He missed Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, a true freshman from Hawaii, capping the Crimson Tide's improbable 26-23 victory over Georgia with a 41-yard touchdown pass in overtime. Tagovailoa started the second half with Georgia holding a 13-0 lead, but led the comeback to become the toast of the country.

"I was not shocked at all," Victorino said Tuesday. "There's something about this kid."

Victorino, who grew up on Maui, is not the only person with baseball ties to be proud to call Tagovailoa a fellow Hawaiian. Former pitcher and current broadcaster Ron Darling and Braves catcher also expressed their pride Tuesday.

"It's just a great day for Hawaii," Darling said at MLB Network. "I think sometimes people who live on that island feel like they're a hundred million miles away from the States and certainly from Alabama. To have a Hawaiian kid do that in the National Championship game, coming in, in the second half, was about as good as it gets." 

"There's no question it gives you a sense of pride," Suzuki said. "Even if you don't know the person, because there is the feel of being a small community and state, just being from Hawaii leads you to think, 'That's right, he's representing.' It just gives you a good feeling."

Victorino and Suzuki grew up on Maui, while Tagovailoa and Darling grew up on Oahu. But like Suzuki said, Hawaiians pull for Hawaiians, regardless of the island they're from.

"It's about representing the state of Hawaii," Victorino said. "And when we leave, that's what it's about. We want to represent the state."

"I think when you live on the island of Hawaii, you have a lot of dreams," Darling said. "You're just not sure if they'll ever be realized. When you have a guy like [Hawaii native] Marcus Mariota giving his Heisman speech and Tua is at home listening to that, it makes him feel like he has a chance. Tua doing what he did last night makes other kids in Hawaii feel like they have a chance."

Baseball players react to National Championship game

Victorino acknowledged the difficulty that some Hawaiians face when they leave the islands for the mainland.

He said it can be a difficult transition.

But he said he hopes the recent successes of athletes like Tagovailoa, McKenzie Milton and Mariota and the past successes of players like himself, Suzuki and Darling show young Hawaiians that they can make it, too.

"Guys are doing it now, big-time players," Victorino said.

of the Cardinals, a native Hawaiian, took to Twitter to show how proud he was of Tagovailoa.

Victorino, who lives in Las Vegas, gets back to Maui at least once a year, hosting a charity golf tournament. He would like to make more trips home in the future, especially as his children get older. He said he wants to help young Hawaiians achieve the dreams that might seem out of reach while growing up on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

"As I'm getting further and further from the game, being there for these Hawaiian kids, it's becoming more important to me," he said. "When I was growing up, I wished I had somebody to talk to. Well, I've got to follow that now. You said you wish you had somebody to ask these questions to. You need to go back.

"I did it in a sport that's different than football, but watching what Hawaii kids are doing now, it's amazing. It's great to see. It's awesome to watch. It makes you proud."