SAN FRANCISCO -- Fans went berserk at AT&T Park on Tuesday night. That was before the Giants-Padres game. And the spectators' enthusiasm had little or nothing to do with baseball. Manny Pacquiao, renowned as the world's best pound-for-pound boxer, was on the premises to throw the ceremonial first pitch on Filipino Heritage Night, a nod to the Bay Area's large Filipino-American population. Just the brief appearance of the earth's most influential Filipino, along with a giveaway of a limited number of Pacquiao bobblehead dolls, was enough to help the Giants sell 11,000 extra tickets. By comparison, last year's first of two Filipino nights drew a group of 5,000.
The turnout also raised approximately $50,000 in charitable proceeds. Pacquiao, who flew in from his training base in Los Angeles, created a spectacle an hour before the game. As he conducted a television interview near the Giants dugout, admirers crowded the rows on either side of the dugout to catch a glimpse of him. Then as Pacquiao, his entourage and his security detail strode down the left-field foul territory to head for a hospitality room, hundreds of fans literally rushed to the railing to get as close as they could to him. The scene was repeated a half-hour later when Pacquiao re-entered the park through the same route. The WBC lightweight and super featherweight champion also caused an uproar as he emerged from the Giants dugout to throw the first pitch. He received a noisy standing ovation from fans, many of whom were not Filipino. As Pacquiao stood atop the mound and basked in the applause, his catcher settled in behind the plate: Giants Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum, who's half-Filipino. A couple of hours earlier, Pacquiao was informed of Lincecum's heritage during a news conference. "That's good," Pacquiao said approvingly, prompting laughter. Pacquiao, who said at the news conference that he played baseball as a little boy, reached Lincecum on the fly with his left-handed toss that the Giants ace caught in the left-handed batter's box. Throwing punches, not baseballs, is preoccupying Pacquiao. A little less than five months removed from his big victory over Oscar De La Hoya, Pacquiao is scheduled to fight Ricky Hatton for the IBO and Ring Magazine World Junior Welterweight titles in Las Vegas on May 2.
"He's definitely 100 percent ready to fight right now. We're just maintaining," said Pacquiao's trainer, Freddie Roach.Roach also noted Pacquiao has had seven "clones" of Hatton as sparring partners and has knocked out four of them. This thrilled the unabashedly pro-Pacquiao gathering at the news conference. That contingent, as well as the reaction at the ballpark, reinforced the notion that Pacquiao has become a cultural phenomenon. He seemed aware of this. "I'm doing my best to make people happy," he said.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.