Tim Lincecum returns to the Bay Area
Posted on June 21, 2016
iPhone Instagram of Tim Lincecum #55 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim smiling in the dugout before the game against the Oakland Athletics at the Oakland Coliseum on Saturday, June 18, 2016 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Brad Mangin)
On Saturday afternoon at the Oakland Coliseum a familiar figure took the mound opposing the hometown Oakland Athletics on a perfect day for baseball in the Bay Area. The diminutive right-handed pitcher wore the familiar #55 on his back as he dug his right cleat into the dirt to dig a hole next to the rubber. This is when it became apparent that the day would be different. The hurler was former San Francisco Giants great and fan-favorite Tim Lincecum. However, on this day he was not wearing orange and black Reeboks or Nikes. He was sporting brand-new red and white New Balance spikes to match the colors of his new ballclub for 2016, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. That’s right. Timmy the Kid was finally, officially, not a Giant. This was his 2016 debut after undergoing major hip surgery last year. He was taking the field in a big league uniform wearing something other than orange and black for the first time since I photographed his Major League debut against the Philadelphia Phillies at AT&T Park on May 6, 2007 (see below). Since I have documented Lincecum’s entire MLB career, including one of his no-hitters and all of his World Series heroics, I needed to be at the Coliseum to shoot him pitching for the Halos. Check out my portfolio of Tim Lincecum’s career here.
The Angels colors are red and white, and on the road they traditionally wear gray uniforms with red and white trim to go along with red caps. On this day they wore their alternate red jerseys and let me tell you- that made for a whole lot of red on Timmy when he stood out there on the mound for the first time in the bottom of the 1st inning. One thing about shooting a 1:05pm baseball game in the bright sunshine on June 18- the light sucks really bad. We are thisclose to the summer solstice with the sun straight overhead, causing shitty shadows, making pictures of guys wearing hats horrendously bad from pretty much every angle, with the slight exception of the backlit side. I did my best, trying to shoot Lincecum from several different angles in the first few innings, but man were the pictures ugly. The red jersey didn’t help much as there was so much red light bouncing around in the shadow area covering his face. I needed to take action to make good pictures, and fast. When all else fails, go upstairs! This was my backup plan all along and it really came in handy on this day.
In the third inning I went up to the third deck on the first base side and shot down onto the mound for a few innings shooting the familiar Lincecum delivery that I have seen so many times through my 400mm lens. Overhead pictures look so great in Oakland, as head groundskeeper Clay Wood and his crew do a fabulous job maintaining the field at the Coliseum. The grass is always cut in striking patterns that photograph well in the bright sunshine, providing a wonderful canvas to plop a pitchers mound on top of. Instead of cropping in tight on Lincecum on the mound I shot loose to show the entire mound and the grass because I liked the contrasting red and green colors and I just couldn’t get enough of that Clay Wood lawn! I gradually moved closer to home plate until I got Lincecum throwing directly towards me as the 4th innings ended.
It’s always fun to look back on the career of players as they get older, especially when I photographed them as rookies. Look how young Lincecum looked back in 2007 and 2008! He doesn’t throw as hard as he used to, but with his surgically-repaired hip and pain-free delivery he hopes to be able to fool hitters with his change-up and craftiness for many years to come. I was so happy to see him pitch well over his 6 innings, giving up just 1 run in earning the victory in his team’s 7-1 win.
Lincecum commented after the win that it felt like a home game for him with all the Giants fans in the stands cheering him on. There were many fans wearing #55 Lincecum jerseys spread out all over the Coliseum, thrilled to see their favorite two-time former Cy Young award-winner in action. This special afternoon in the Bay Area gave many fans closure in their relationship with Lincecum, as they never had a chance to say goodbye last season. Lincecum pitched in his last game as a Giant on June 27, 2015. He had hip surgery on September 3, 2015 in Denver and spent the rest of the season rehabbing. He was not around the ballpark at the end of the season much and the fans did not have a chance to bid adieu to the pending free-agent on Fan Appreciation Day. The season ended and Lincecum was gone. It was a huge bummer for everyone. Barry Zito got to pitch to one last hitter as a Giant during the final home game of the 2013 season, earning a huge ovation when he struck out Mark Kotsay of the San Diego Padres on four pitches. Lincecum and his fans were not able to share such a special moment in 2015.
For me as a fan and a photographer it was great to see Lincecum back on the field competing again. He has always been a photographer’s dream. The delivery. The hair. The drama. The winning. He brought the Giants out of the awfulness of the mid-2000’s when all anyone cared about was whether or not Barry Bonds homered. Lincecum was the long-haired pot-smoking kid from Seattle who everyone loved like a little brother. The little kid they called “The Freak” who threw 99mph as a rookie and inspired the fabulous “Lincecum Fuck Yeah” song and video could do no wrong in San Francisco. For the rest of the 2016 season many Giants fans, myself included, will be paying extra attention to the Angels schedule to see when #55 pitches again. Hard to believe, but after 2002 many of us will also be rooting for the Angels to win on those days, just as long as we don’t have to see the Rally Monkey! Welcome back Timmy!