For Tim Lincecum and the San Francisco Giants, it’s another Filipino Heritage Night, an homage to a fan base that represents the second largest Asian American group in the nation (Four million based on 2011 Census estimates, with Northern California the largest concentration of Filipino Americans outside of Hawaii).
And they all love Lincecum, whose mother was Filipino, making the Giants’ star the son of a great-granddaughter of a Filipino immigrant.
Lincecum is a 4th generation Filipino American.
Far from an accidental, or the reluctant Filipino, Lincecum always seems interested when I’ve mentioned Filipino history to him. One of his recent starts actually was on Bataan Valor Day, the surrender of Bataan and the start of the death march.
After a recent game, when he struggled and gave up 7 walks, I asked him about superstitions since ballplayers, like Filipinos are notoriously superstitious. I thought this might get him to open up about being Filipino.
But any discussion of being Filipino always goes back to his mother.
He certainly doesn’t deny his “Filipino-ness.” But like many half-Filipino, or multi-racial Filipinos (21.8 percent of U.S. Filipinos), one’s comfort level is based on a continued connection to family. Certainly, that’s a private matter–to a point. It’s just that when you take the mound on such a public stage as Major League Baseball, you lose some of that privacy. Filipinos see a game where there are zero Filipinos on the field. And when someone like Lincecum comes along, naturally, he becomes, whether he likes it or not, a kind of global hero to Filipinos everywhere. Sports and identity politics go together.
Just like Venezuelans love Sandoval, Scutaro and Blanco, Filipinos love Lincecum.
Lincecum isn’t pitching tonight. The starter is Matt Cain, not even 1/32nd Filipino, but still beloved by Giants fans.
Lincecum might make a cameo as he did on what I believe was the very first Filipino American Heritage night in 2009. The coincidence of Manny Pacquiao promoting his fight with Ricky Hatton made it practically a community event.
When pound-for-pound champ Pacman threw the ceremonial first pitch to a catcher named Lincecum, it was probably the first major league Filipino battery in history. (Not in all of baseball, of course. When I caught Marcelino Dumpit as a youth player for Dolores Park and Everett Jr. High in the ’60s, we had a nice Filipino battery going in the city leagues).
Fast forward to 2013, and an older Pacquiao has lost twice, his star not quite as bright as in 2009.
Lincecum? He’s had it even tougher. From double-CY winner to statistically being the worst starting pitcher in the league, Lincecum’s last two years have been a mess. He’s struggled to find the rhythm that made him into one of the game’s premier pitchers.
Then last Saturday, on 4/20 (coincidence?), Lincecum was brilliant. Throwing with control, Lincecum walked just two batters, and used his low-nineties fastball primarily to challenge hitters, striking out eight. Even more significant, he didn’t give up the big inning that has raised his ERA to over 5. Does pitching to Posey at catcher really make that much of a difference? It sure seems to. The Giants won the game 2-0, courtesy of a Sandoval homer.
Lincecum earned his second win for the season and gained a lot more confidence as continues to get back to his 2009 form.
Giants fans, Filipino or not, left that night with big smiles on their faces.
The “Preak” was back.
Read more about Lincecum on Inquirer.net, the major daily newspaper of the Philippines.