Being born in America in a Filipino family has its quirks. As a young boy I was enrolled in Little League and wondered why all the other kids seemed to know so much about baseball. Now that I’m older I can observe how baseball is such a big part of American culture in that it becomes an inter-generational activity. American kids are taught the nuances of baseball by their parents. What if your parents come from a country whose national pastime is cockfighting?
As a young musician cutting my teeth at Bay Area sports bars in a good old fashioned Top-40 cover band I spent many extra innings watching the crowd go nuts over baseball while I waited for the game to end so we could start playing music, and it seemed so foreign to me even then. How could anyone from outside the culture jump in to the inaccessible drama of Major League Baseball?
Enter Tim Lincecum, the young misfit star starting pitcher for the San Francisco Giants. I discovered him while playing a game on an iPhone called “Filipino or Not?” while waiting in line to watch a Bollywood at the San Francisco Asian American International Film Festival. A Filipino-American starting pitcher representing the city with the highest concentration of Filipinos? Cooool…
Fast forward to the tail end of the Giants historic 2010 season, and it’s Filipino Heritage Night at the ballpark. The Heritage Nights are the latest incarnation of the Filipino Festival, and it being a site for Filipino America, I was on the ground at AT&T Park in downtown San Francisco. The Fil-Am Cy Young award winner didn’t pitch that night, but the Giants won, and so I decided to follow them. Often times I had kulintang gigs on game days and would drive back to the kulintang studio in post-game traffic, discovering KNBR with Krup and Kuip on the way.
I was amused to learn that Lincecum’s nickname (palayaw in Tagalog) is “The Freak” because if his short stature and unique way of getting the job done… “very Filipino,” I thought. Combine this trait with his mestizo appearance, a blemish on his police record, and the F-bomb, and you have a role model that I believe many Fil-Ams can identify with.
So today’s blog entry is dedicated to trailblazers like Tim Lincecum who, by excelling in their fields and becoming the best, brings confused Fil-Ams like me closer to mainstream America while raising the bar. Salamat, game na!