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May 12, 2013

Victorino talks switch hitting, defense

He has won three Gold Gloves, led the National League in triples twice, started in center field in the 2009 All-Star Game and has had 10 or more outfield assists three different seasons.

For what it’s worth, with his 91st career homer this past Monday, he passed Mike Lum (90) for the all-time lead among Hawaiian-born major leaguers. He already led Hawaiian natives in runs (630), hits (1,085), and stolen bases (204) at that point.

Meet Red Sox right fielder Shane Victorino, better known to some as the “Flyin’ Hawaiian.”

Victorino, who was born in Wailuku, Hawaii, recently went one-on-one with Eagle-Tribune baseball reporter Christopher Smith.

Smitty: When did you become a switch hitter?

Victorino: I started when I was 22 in Double-A. Actually, I did it for a half season in Short Season-A. It was tough. So we gave up on it the next year in Single-A and went back to hitting right-handed (full-time). And then I got to Double-A, and my hitting coach asked if I had done it before. I said, “Yeah.” And he said, “Would you want to go back?” I told him no, that it was frustrating and a lot of work. He was like, “We’ll work on it in the cage area for the first half of the season.”

We did that and second half of the season came and he was like, “You ready to hit?” I’m like, “Yeah.” He goes, “No, no. Are you ready to hit left-handed in the game?” And so be it. I ended up hitting left-handed in a game at 22 years old in Double-A.

Smitty: How long did it take for you to feel comfortable from the left side?

Victorino: It took three, four years before I started to feel somewhat comfortable. And to this day I’m still learning my swing every day. There’s times when I feel like I haven’t hit left-handed ever in my life where it’s like, “Wow, where did I lose my swing?” But again, concentrating every day, you try to feel comfortable and simplify the swing as much as I can from that side.

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