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"Tim, everybody is calling you a freak."
"Well, Dad, I am. Why?"
"How can you say you're a freak? You're just a good athlete."
"Yeah, I'd consider them freaks," Chris said. "Then, O.K., you're a freak."
Chris, only 5'11", 175 himself, pitched as a youth and claims to have thrown 88 mph at age 52. He was teaching son Sean, four years older than Tim, on a backyard mound in Bellevue, Wash., when Tim, at five, began piggybacking on those lessons. The mechanics Tim employs now are the same he used then, the same as Chris used as a boy himself. "My dad and I aren't very large guys, so it's about efficiency and getting the most out of my body that I can," Tim says. "He learned that, and I'm a modified version of that. He was the prototype, and I'm version 2.0." Before Tim accepted a full ride at Washington, Chris made the Huskies' coaches promise they wouldn't change his mechanics.
Chris designed a weight-training program for Tim and videotaped all his amateur games—the two of them would critically review them the next day—except for road games when Tim was in college. By then Chris knew his younger son's mechanics so well that even while listening to those games on the radio, he could "see" what Tim was doing wrong. "Watch the angle of your shoulders!" he might yell, for example, at the radio when his son's location was particularly off.
In the stands Chris would sit behind home plate and flash signals to Tim, who knew exactly what to correct. If, for instance, Chris slapped his thighs, Tim knew to "sit down on my legs" through his delivery, to use the lower half of his body more. "His dad obviously did a very good job with Timmy," says Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti. "I treat Timmy differently from most pitchers: I leave him alone."
The last part of turning Tim into a major league pitcher was the hardest part for Chris: He had to let go. Lincecum 2.0 belongs to the world now, to the big cities and the fancy hotels and the media and everything else that comes with the spectacle of big league life. In Bellevue, where Chris still gets up each day for work at 5:30 a.m., the phone doesn't ring quite as often with the happy promise of his son's voice. "I used to hear from him every night, even when he played in the Cape Cod League," Chris says. "As soon as he got to the majors, I hear from him about once a week. But I understand. It's his life. I'm here for him.
"You know, I'm built almost identical to Timmy. He's kind of like my soul mate. I pray for only one thing, and it's for my sons, and it's not about the most wins or getting rich. It's one little prayer. I pray my kids are safe and healthy."