06/24/08 10:28 PM ET
Victorino, Suzuki have friendly rivalry
Hawaiian Major Leaguers hail from same town on Maui
By Ken Mandel / MLB.com
"He was probably one of the best athletes to come out of Maui for every sport," Suzuki said. "He's probably got the majority of the records, track, baseball, soccer. It was pretty unbelievable watching him play. Competing against him, you kind of want to be like him."Now Suzuki just wants to beat him, whether it's with a rifle to cut him down stealing, or by blocking the plate against the former high school punt returner who likes to occasionally pretend he's a running back. "If I have to chance to run him over, I'm going to run him over," Victorino said. Suzuki already has the edge in two areas: He was the higher draft pick -- of which Victorino said he is often reminded -- and he's two inches taller than the vertically challenged Phillies center fielder. "I told him he's shrinking," Suzuki said. Their parents are good friends, and Victorino attended kindergarten with Suzuki's older sister, Kerry Ann Suzuki. The players and their parents enjoyed a photo shoot for Hawaii magazine before the game, where both players were showered with leis. Most importantly, both are established Major Leaguers for teams in playoff contention, and they take that seriously. Early this season, after Victorino stumbled to a 6-for-37 start, older brother Mike joked that Victorino had slipped to No. 2 among favorite Hawaiian Major Leaguers. "He called to say, 'I've been dethroned,'" Victorino said. "Now, it's all Kurt Suzuki." The two have since waged a battle to win the state's favor, and entered Tuesday's three-game series with similar statistics. Suzuki is at .279 with three homers and 26 RBIs, while Victorino is at .270 with two homers and 18 RBIs. To Victorino, the most telling duel will be on the bases. The fleet-footed outfielder plans to swipe a bag or four against Suzuki. That represents a formidable challenge, considering Suzuki has gunned down the second-most runners in baseball and has the third-highest caught-stealing percentage (37 percent, 19 of 51 would-be thieves). "I heard he's pretty good," Victorino said. "He's was known as a very good defensive catcher. I've always known that. We'll see." In 2003, Victorino followed Tony Rego, a catcher born Antone DoRego, as the second Hawaiian born in Maui to play in the Majors. Suzuki is the third. Rego batted .286 in 44 games for the St. Louis Browns in 1924-25. There have been 34 Hawaiian-born players. Victorino and Suzuki represent half of the active Hawaiians on Major League rosters, and the only two from Wailuku, which sits about 2,300 miles from San Francisco and boasted a population of 12,296 at the 2000 census. Texas starter Scott Feldman is from Kailua (Honolulu), while Pirates reliever Tyler Yates is from Lihue (Kaua'i). Understanding the competitive nature of the two, both acknowledge that getting a "W" is the ultimate in bragging rights. While Suzuki conceded the speed edge to Victorino, he said the two don't compare stats after the season. "He's an outfielder," Suzuki said. "I'm a catcher. He's more of a speed guy. I don't like to compare us, but he's probably, if there's a word more than 'a lot' faster than me, that would be it."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.