San Francisco Giants: My baseball life, from fan to father
Let me introduce myself as someone who strives to be known as a San Francisco Giants fan. I have “Say Hey” tattooed on my chest as a dedication to both the team and my family.
Baseball is the common language of the Muscat family. Specifically, San Francisco Giants baseball.
My Nannu—grandfather in Maltese—moved from Detroit to San Francisco when he saw Willie Mays chasing flyballs all over Seal Park. My father endured the Giants of the late 70’s and early 80’s with such focused loyalty he is still proud of the ’89 and ’02 World Series defeats. My office desk is adorned with a photo of my dad teaching me how to throw a baseball at the age of three, wearing Giants hats. My most used Twitter hashtag is #BeatLA, followed by #SFGiants.
However, for the last 12 years, I’ve lived in the lands of Padres and Dodgers “fans,” even marrying a diehard Padres fanatic. Throughout this time, I have made sure to make my dedication to the orange and black well known.
From the “ugly” Christmas sweater to the custom-colored Vans to the many pairs of socks to the different hats, right down to my surfboard colors, I make sure any Dodgers “fan” knows right away I am their (friendly) enemy. The adult softball leagues of Santa Barbara recognize me from afar as I walk to the game with my orange t-shirt and socks. I even got chased out of a bar during Game 2 of the 2017 World Series for the loud cheering I provided during the Astros comeback, all while wearing a Giants hat.
But now, a different chapter of life is upon me. Three weeks ago, April 9, 2019, at 6:42 a.m., my son was born.
Since his birth, the Giants are 9-9, and I give him full credit for helping make that happen. After all, we were in the hospital at 4:00 am on April 8, but after listening to his dad curse about losing a five-run lead with Madison Bumgarner on the mound, he decided to wait till the Giants would beat his mom’s Padres. No joke.
So now I have the opportunity to lead my son towards Giants fandom. And Giants fandom is a confusing, often difficult, proud and rather rewarding side of life. As I prepare to lead him down this path, here is a look at mine.
I was born in 1989, months before the A’s swept us in the World Series. Of course, I don’t remember this. Yet, my father told me stories of the season and the series with relentless passion. I wouldn’t remember that either, except for the fact I still hear these stories. In 1992, we moved from San Francisco to Rhode Island, but my dad still made sure the Giants were the only team we cheered for.
Fast forward to 1994 and the signing of Barry Bonds, the true start of my die-hard dedication. I don’t remember reading the headlines, watching the first at-bat or even being thrilled about the acquisition. What I do remember is watching that man play baseball, on SportsCenter highlights and Major League Baseball featuring Ken Griffey Jr. on my Nintendo 64. I recall studying his swing and his stolen bases. I can still see Barry dancing on the dugout to celebrate clinching the playoffs.
And then, in 1998 we moved back to the Bay, igniting my Giants passion to extremes.
Not only did I love Bonds, but now Bill Mueller, J.T. Snow, Mark Gardner, Rich Aurilia, Russ Ortiz, Rob Nenn, Kirk Rueter and Benito Santiago became heroes. Heck, I even loved Jeff Kent.
As a catcher in little league, I did my best to throw to second from my knees. As a stats nerd, I tried to switch hit. In the dugout, I played with toothpicks because Dusty proved its use for acquiring baseball knowledge.
In 2002, I remember running to the fridge during the 7th inning of Game 6 to grab apple cider in celebration, while my father quietly told me to put it back and wait till the game was over. The next two innings will forever haunt me. Why did Dusty pull Russ? Why did the Angels take pride in those damned red rally sticks? Why didn’t the Giants have their own rally monkey? And why did we even watch Game 7?
And then, painful season after painful season, highlighted by the only man who has ever made Pac Bell, err SBC, err AT&T, err Oracle Park look like homer paradise.
To this day, I see the battles between Eric Gagne and Bonds, forever enamored with the intensity between the two. To this day, I remember Bonds launching 660 to tie the great Willie Mays. To this day, I remember the energy his splash homers brought to the park, to the broadcast, to the Bay. To this day, I can still sing the commercial about “Ray, from across the bay, and Damian, the ace Australian.” To this day, I can find the words I used to defend Randy Winn as a great leadoff hitter and Kevin Correa or Noah Lowry as the next Jason Schmidt. To this day, I remember the pain of Felipe Alou taking over for Dusty. To this day, I remember Marquis Grissom’s batting stance making me laugh and motivating me at the same time. To this day, I still boo whenever the name Armando Benitez or Aaron Rowand enters a conversation. (Boooooo!).
Between the pain of five straight losing seasons, there were highlights. I cheered and I cried. Confusion was the standard to Giants fandom at the time. Heck, I will even admit when I began my studies at UCSD in 2007, I bought a Padres hat because Petco Park would become my baseball stomping grounds and I wanted to fit in.
Then came the Panda. And Tim Lincecum. And Buster Posey.
I still remember in 2010, hosting an event for a local non-profit, sitting in the back of the room illegally live-streaming Game 5 with sweat dripping down my face. Then, running outside and screaming my lungs dry, calling my grandparents, calling my parents, throwing my hat in the air, and not stopping until a friend reminded me to give a closing speech, a speech that started with the announcement of the Giants victory.
The nine years since? Wow.
2011 will forever haunt me.
2012 threatened to grey my hair at the age of 23, but also brought me tears of joy and social media overloads. My former co-workers frequently remind me of the ruckus I caused after Posey’s grand slam off Matt Latos, followed by the broom I brought to the office after the sweep.
2013 would have been better if Marco Scutaro didn’t suffer the fate of Freddy Sanchez. But still, I can relive watching the Lincecum no-no, with tears streaming and smoke in the air.
2014 brought my superstitious practices to new heights, which was well worth it. Another Lincecum no-no seared into the memory bank. And I will never stop watching the Panik – Crawford – Belt double play, reading Bumgarner’s stat lines and my deep love for Michael Morse.
2016 was even worse, even though it could have also been so much better.
2017, don’t go there.
2018, hurts worse.
All the while, at the start of every season, I still give the Giants the label of title contenders.
Why? 2010. That 2010 team was something else, and then some. That 2010 team still has me holding out hope that this 2019 team just might contend.
The years ahead will be a challenge. Will Farhan be able to rebuild while keeping a competitive team together? Will Buster, the Brandon’s and Madison retire as Giants? Will Joey Bart and Heliot Ramos live up to the hype? Will the Warriors still be so good that the pain won’t be so severe? Will the Padres get so good that I start watching them often?
All I know, is there are five years before my son will start to remember his Giants fandom. No matter what the Giants endure during those five years, I will glorify it all for the little man. He will remember my stories about Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, the Panda, MadBum and Crawford highlights.
He will be taught the Muscat philosophy that pitching creates contenders, not home run hitters. He will have many photos of me and him in Giants hats. His Nannu will tell him about Willie Mays, Will the Thrill and Candlestick Park. His mom may talk about the Padres, but I will make sure I speak louder.
Here’s to the next five months of Giants baseball, as well as the next five years.