Neumann-Goretti's To a product of hard work, sacrifice
Bay To already has a baseball scholarship to Fairleigh Dickinson. So why was the Neumann-Goretti speedster running sprints on a frigid January day, shackled by 10-pound ankle weights and restricted by a parachute?
Bay To already has a baseball scholarship to Fairleigh Dickinson.
So why was the Neumann-Goretti speedster running sprints on a frigid January day, shackled by 10-pound ankle weights and restricted by a parachute?
"I'm always working to get better," To said. "It doesn't matter if I have a scholarship or not."
Hard work and sacrifice are family traits, and ones the 5-foot-11, 185-pound rightfielder/pitcher hopes will alter generations.
The Southwest Philadelphia resident (65th Street and Lindbergh Avenue) is the son of parents who emigrated from Cambodia in the 1980s.
"They motivate me so that my [future] kids won't go through what they went through," To said.
His father, Tilung (nicknamed "T"), was about 10 when his family fled war-torn Cambodia for Thailand and arrived in San Francisco in 1983. His mother, Lim, was around 6 when she arrived in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1986.
Although they didn't know each other then, both came from villages near Battambang, a city in northwestern Cambodia.
Sitting with his wife inside a Dunkin' Donuts on Chestnut Street, a block from the place (now named Christ Community Church) that sponsored his family's arrival, Tilung described their entrance to the United States.
"You come with nothing in your pockets," he said.
A representative from Christ Community Church, which bought the building in 2004 from what was the Chestnut Street Baptist Church, said it was once an international church that helped refugees.
"They came from virtually nothing to give me and my sister whatever we wanted and go to the schools that we wanted and play sports like baseball," Bay To said.
Instead of finishing high school, Tilung and Lim worked to help support their respective families, but they want something different for their children.
That's why the fleet-footed rightfielder with the rocket right arm was outside with his father in January, running sprints at Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park in South Philly.
Last season, To batted .364 with 13 steals, 25 runs scored, and a .479 on-base percentage in 28 games. This season, the defending Catholic League champion Saints are 2-0 in league play.
"[The running] felt like hell, honestly," Bay said, "but knowing that all this stuff will pay off this season, I just had to go through it."
He briefly worked with a trainer in December, but his father, who works as a servo motor technician, took over when it became unaffordable.
"He pushed me, he gave me exercises to do, and set up stuff a trainer would, except with more screaming and more cursing," Bay said with a laugh.
Tilung acknowledged he pushes his children, especially in academia. Their daughter, Tivonna, is a freshman at Temple.
"I'm concerned about grades," he said. "Baseball, that's secondary. Education is so important for us because we don't have it."
Lim, a nail technician, smiled with pride.
"It's overwhelming," she said, voice quivering, eyes filling with tears. "Words can't really express how I feel. I'm very proud of him. . . ."
Her voice fell away as tears spilled down her cheeks.
"I'm sorry," she said, as Tilung retrieved napkins.
"I am a very proud mom," she said. "Seeing that our kids are better than us - that's what you want. That they're accomplishing everything that we didn't. That makes everything worth it."