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Tim Lincecum’s return healed a wound in our baseball hearts

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You don’t need me to tell you what Timmy means to Giants fans. But here’s what his return meant to me.

Los Angeles Dodgers v San Francisco Giants Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

Sunday’s ceremony was absolutely about Bruce Bochy and all of his accomplishments over his lengthy career in baseball, especially those that took place in San Francisco. What Bochy meant to this franchise was made very clear from the amount of players who returned to partake in his send-off. It was a feat that was already quite impressive, but perhaps made most impressive by the return of Tim Lincecum to the ballpark where he started his career, but hasn’t been seen at for four years.

I know I’ve told this story before, and I hope this will be the last time I do, but I was at Tim Lincecum’s last start. I had a feeling that it was going to be his last start, one way or another. But I wasn’t expecting what actually happened.

From the nosebleed seat I managed to get the morning of the game, we couldn’t tell that Tim had been hit by a come-backer. He’d given up a handful of runs early in the game, and we all conferred with each other and assumed he was just being pulled from the game. Despite a few promising starts, his 2015 season was going poorly and it was kind of expected. So his last start was not met with the fanfare it deserved, but more of a sigh of acceptance that this was just who Timmy was now.

It wasn’t Tim’s last appearance at Oracle Park, but it was the last game he played in. And no one knew it. The fans didn’t get to say goodbye. We didn’t get to say thank you.

So even though Sunday was a send-off for Bruce Bochy, and potentially Madison Bumgarner, it was such an honor to have a brief moment where we got to say the same to Tim Lincecum.

You don’t need me to tell you what he meant to this franchise. But although fans yearned to get one more moment with him, he became more and more elusive as his multiple attempts at a comeback faltered and he was struck by family tragedy.

People often compared a Lincecum sighting in the wild to the blurry pictures of Big Foot. Both are products of the Pacific North West and both are incredibly rare.

And although it was nice to spot Tim at a Garth Brooks concert, or the Women’s March, or even at an event this summer previewing the blonde locks that have now replaced his iconic mop of dark brown flowing hair, it wasn’t the same.

Because the fans, including myself, were yearning for a sense of closure. We were yearning for a chance to show our appreciation. To see Lincecum embraced by the organization again in a way that might lead to getting to see him again down the road.

Lincecum did not provide that closure, stating in an interview with Amy Gutierrez that he’s still trying to adjust to a life after baseball, and that he’s not entirely sure he’s going to retire in an official capacity. But he did grant his legions of fans the opportunity to at least thank him for all that he gave us over the years.

As we watched the parade of players from the Bruce Bochy era take the field one more time, it was a cruel reminder of the relentless pace of time. You spend 162 games with these people every year and sometimes you start to take them for granted. You start to assume you will always see them next year.

And then you don’t. And you don’t see them again for a long time. So it made this gathering of players extra special, something we may never see again in our lifetime. And for the first, but hopefully not last time, one of those players was Tim Lincecum.

He’s always been shy of the limelight. He loved to play but didn’t love to be the center of public attention. But he put that aside to be a part of a very special day and I could not be happier.

Thank you, Timmy.

You mean more to my experience as a Giants fan than I can articulate. You bridged the gap between the Barry Bonds era and the Buster Posey era and breathed life into a franchise who desperately needed you. You will forever be my favorite Giant. Your unassuming size and explosive delivery made people stop in their tracks. Your personality made fans want to root for you every single time you took the mound, even when you stopped being able to fool batters the way you once could.

The image of your hair blowing in the breeze as you were held up by your teammates after the 2010 World Series victory is, in my opinion, the most iconic image in the World Series era of Giants baseball. You were the underdog we all wanted to root for, even when you were the best in the game. You reignited my love of this franchise after the departure of Barry Bonds left a bad taste in my mouth.

And your return to the field on Sunday healed a part of my baseball soul that I didn’t even know was bleeding.

So again, I say thank you.