PHILADEPHIA -- Damon Dixon went to the Boys & Girls Club in the Nicetown section of North Philadelphia Thursday morning and knew something was different. He had been told Shane Victorino, whose name and likeness line the walls of that building, was supposed to stop by at some point."But he
PHILADEPHIA -- Damon Dixon went to the Boys & Girls Club in the Nicetown section of North Philadelphia Thursday morning and knew something was different. He had been told Shane Victorino, whose name and likeness line the walls of that building, was supposed to stop by at some point.
"But he just came in and I was like, 'Oh snap. This is really happening,'" Dixon said. "He's right there in my face.'"
Victorino hasn't been a Phillie since 2012, but with his retirement set for Friday, he was back in town to visit the place that, after a nearly $1 million donation to help with renovations in 2011, now bears his name. He toured the facilities and checked in on summer programs. He discussed some of the younger kids' artwork with the artists themselves.
"Every time I'm back, I love to stop in," Victorino said. "I love to see the growth. I love to see the kids. I love to see their faces, their imagination."
But Dixon, 16, didn't let the hero's homecoming go by without an accompanying workout. While Victorino greeted kids and shook hands, Dixon grabbed a basketball. He wanted Victorino one-on-one.
He got him.
"I didn't expect him to make all them shots like he did," Dixon said. "I didn't even expect him to score, and he won."
While the two squared up on the court, dozens of kids looked on with smiles. Other than a 2008 World Series championship, Victorino said, being able to give that to the Nicetown community is what he's most proud of when he looks back at his time in Philadelphia.
"To be able to give back and embrace a community, especially here in Nicetown, it meant a lot," Victorino said. "This is it for the rest of my life and hopefully many years beyond that. When I renovated this building, it was 100-plus years old. So, hopefully for the next 100 years, this thing can provide a safe haven and somewhere for these kids to come and enjoy themselves."
The Shane Victorino Foundation is a non-profit dedicated to promoting opportunities for underserved youth. It was founded in 2010 by Victorino and his wife, Melissa. While the Shane Victorino Nicetown Boys & Girls Club renovations have been its signature project, it has also been involved with clinics and projects in Victorino's home state of Hawaii.
Victorino said being back for Friday's retirement ceremony "feels amazing," especially considering he will get to enjoy it with some of his 2008 teammates during Toyota Alumni Weekend. But doing so in front of the fans, he said, is what makes it so exciting. Among those fans in attendance will be Dixon.
"People talk about the game of baseball; it's definitely special," Victorino said. "But there's going to be another great baseball player that's going to come along and have accolades and accomplish things and hopefully win championships in this city. It's things like [giving back] that separate you."
Joe Bloss is a reporter for MLB.com based in Philadelphia.