It’s been more than three years since Tim Lincecum last threw a pitch in a baseball game. More than four since he last did so in a San Francisco Giants jersey. More than eight since he did it in the way we’ll all remember him for.
It feels like yesterday. It also feels like a lifetime ago. Both can be true.
Lincecum has been in the news around these parts since showing up for Bruce Bochy’s retirement ceremony five days ago. It was the first time Timmy visited Oracle Park without being under contract with the Giants.
Seeing him back on a baseball field, donning a Giants jersey no less, added some finality to a career that was as short as it was special. But more than that, it provided a bittersweet “what if.”
MLB postseason is in full swing, and with it, numerous quality pitchers who are older than Lincecum. Max Scherzer is. Justin Verlander is. Charlie Morton is. Rich Hill is.
Lincecum was 27 the last time he posted an ERA below 4.00. You weren’t wrong for expecting, or at least hoping, that we would have gotten two, five or ten more of those seasons.
So you can understand the emotions he feels when stepping onto the perfectly-manicured grass one more time.
When Lincecum appeared on Sunday, his presence was the biggest story. And after that, his comments about wanting to be around the team more, and hoping to find reasons to return.
Those weren’t what resonated with me. I’ve been stuck on one quote from Lincecum, as quoted by The Athletic’s Andrew Baggarly:
The chapters of Bochy’s 13 years here, I got to be a part of a lot of them, but … I don’t know. A lot of things are going through my head right now. I miss being out on the field, but I’m not good anymore enough to be out here.
Lincecum, of course, didn’t stop playing because he wanted to. Didn’t stop because he slowly faded away from the game.
He stopped because his body no longer allowed him to do the things that made him a sensation in the first place. The two Cy Young Awards, three World Series rings, and tens of millions of dollars are a reflection of what Lincecum once did, but they do little to dull the pain of what he can’t do now.
He fought it. Probably still is fighting it. And failing in that battle.
That hurts. And I’m guessing most of us can relate to it.
As a kid, I wanted to be a professional basketball player. I wanted nothing else.
I’m 29 now. More than a decade removed from playing a competitive basketball game, which I wasn’t even good at. Still find my mind wandering to outlandish hypotheticals of how I could make it. How I could live that dream.
My mom still asks me, when I watch the NBA Draft, if I’m okay as I watch a bunch of 20-year olds cry tears of joy as their dream - my dream - is actualized. I still have to take a moment before I tell her I am.
I never got close. Lincecum, on the other hand, got closer than close. He lived it. He accomplished things at the highest level. Needed just four years to establish himself as arguably the most popular figure in a franchise that employed perhaps the two greatest baseball players ever.
Willie Mays could ride a bicycle across the infield while towing Barry Bonds in a wagon, and I don’t think it would get the cheers that Lincecum smiling on the Jumbotron would.
We all have dreams that have failed, and I’d reckon most of the people who read this article had athletic dreams that failed.
It makes Lincecum - beloved for always being so relatable - just like us. As tough of a pill as it may be to swallow.