Take a minute and get to know Dogfish Cutter Thomas Pineda, now in his second year in the league.
Repping the #13 for the Dogfish – for how many times this fishy has stolen my heart over the years – is the veteran Thomas Pineda. But folks, he’s more than just pretty face. This dude has some serious Ultimate history, which made for quite a fascinating read after the multiple joke emails he sent back to me before I got a serious one. He’s quite the unsung hero.
Hailing from a faraway land called Millbrae, California, teammates have been quoted as saying he looks like “a gazelle when he runs.” One lucky teammate even saw him, “throw a full-field hammer for a score at a tournament without even warming up.” The man obviously has skills.
But where did it all start? When did this beast of a man bring his claws to the Ultimate game?
“I learned about Ultimate in middle school, roughly 20 years ago in PE,” said Pineda, “and then it progressed into after school sports. Our middle school team would play another middle school or other high schools in local tournaments (and get worked over pretty well). I didn’t start playing competitively and practicing regularly until I transferred my junior year of college to UC Santa Cruz – which was a huge transition from just playing pick-up or with friends.”
So the boy’s got swagger. But how did he get involved with professional Ultimate and these crazy Dogfish everyone keeps talking about?
“A buddy of mine, Drew Kim, was playing for Dogfish while I lived abroad in South Korea, so I would watch games on YouTube and support my local Bay Area team. My team captain out there, who also knew Drew, inspired me to work harder and get better, and when the time came to move home he told me I should try out for Dogfish when I got back.”
Professional Ultimate in the MLU most certainly has its differences – larger field, new rules, and referees. This begs the question: What’s your favorite part about this professional league?
“Playing pro is a great opportunity for the sport to gain more exposure. Anyone who has been to a club series tournament in this area can watch and be inspired by some of the best teams in the world, but looking around those fields, the majority of the spectators are other players. When the whole community comes for a clinic before a game, or to see a showcase game, like the Women’s Bay Area All-Stars match, then the next generation of players can get inspired to discover ultimate.”
Humble and handsome, just how we like ’em. He’s been strutting his stuff on the Dogfish field for over a year now, longer than most on this young team, meaning he has more memories of the Fish than most. His favorite memory to date?
“Last season was full of awesome firsts for me, but to see our faithful fans out at our home opener this year in that weather really meant a lot to me. And for all of us to be treated to some good pies to the face afterward was fun to watch.”
Off the field, Thomas isn’t a mere face in the crowd – he gets involved. The boy loves to teach on and off the field. Where can you find Mr. Pineda when he’s not leading the team in blocks?
“Besides putting in the time to train and practice, as well as plan for the middle school class I teach, I like to volunteer for various arts and youth outreach programs. Last year, I was able to volunteer each Saturday for First Exposures, a mentoring program that taught photography. I wasn’t able to do the school year-long commitment this year, but I still like to volunteer for their occasional events or other shorter-term things like film festivals or community events.”
So there you have it, FishFans. Your loyal #13, Mr. Thomas Pineda, in all of his transparent glory. The only question left to ask was whether or not this fish is single. “There is no “single” in team,” he told me, “but also, nope- swipe left, ladies/guys.” Sigh.
Come see Pineda and the rest of the Dogfish at their next home game, May 7 vs the Portland Stags.