That’s how I felt after personally witnessing Travis Ishikawa hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 9th to give the San Francisco Giants a 6-3 win over the St. Louis Cardinals, making them National League Champions for the third time in five years (That’s silly me at AT&T Park shortly after the home run). I can only imagine how Ishikawa felt.
I watched him rounding first base stretching both arms out as if he were spreading his wings, ready to take off into the air. This life long Giant fan was ready to fly with him from the third deck of AT&T Park.
Ishikawa pumped his left fist, then Travis quickly hugged teammate Jake Peavy as he rounded second base. But Travis’ victory lap around the bases wasn’t over. More teammates came pouring out of the dug out as he headed home, where Ishikawa was absolutely mobbed by the jubilant Giants.
Just minutes earlier, as Ishikawa walked up to home plate with runners on first and second, I thought to myself, what a perfect ending this would be. Here’s Ishikawa’s chance to become part of Giant folk lore.
Up to now, I had played objective journalist. I wrote about Kolten Wong of the St. Louis Cardinals and Ishikawa with equal enthusiasm, marking the achievements of two underappreciated Asian American sports figures. Both were etching their names into their team’s history.
But the truth was Wong was doing it against MY team, and it hurt writing about his exploits. Sure I appreciated the fact that he was coming from the depths of despair, making the last out after being picked off first base to end his team’s chances last year of winning the World Series. I felt good for this guy, even if it hurt doing it.
Ishikawa has his own rags to riches story. This past summer the 31-year old was playing minor league baseball in Fresno. His wife had told him it was time to end his dream, that he needed to come home and take care of his three children. Ishikawa admitted he was in a deep funk and the moment sent him into tears. Reflecting on his strong Christian faith, he said a voice inside him told him it wasn’t time to call it quits.
Now Ishikawa ranks up there with Giant legends like Bobby Thompson who hit the game winning home run against the dreaded Dodgers in the final game of the 1951 National League playoffs. Ishikawa’s moment is even being compared to the Catch, 49er great Dwight Clark’s reception of a Joe Montana pass in the end zone to score the winning touchdown in 1981 to send San Francisco to its first Superbowl.
“I had that moment so many times in my backyard,” Ishikawa said. “It was so cool to make it real.”