Where Are They Now?: Barry Zito

Image credit: Barry Zito (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn)

Barry Zito won 165 games during 15 major league seasons. He was a three-time all-star who earned the American League Cy Young Award in 2002 following a 23-5 season with a 2.75 ERA for the Athletics.

Yet when Zito reflects on a career that included nine consecutive seasons of 10 or more wins, he said his single greatest achievement occurred off the field.

“I’m most proud of the fact that I was sticking it out in the dugout in 2010 when I wasn’t good enough to be on the field,” Zito said. “I’m most proud I was able to stick it out through that experience, even though it really destroyed my ego entirely.

“That was the hardest time in my life, but it really changed my life.”

Zito was left off the Giants’ postseason roster in 2010 following a 9-14, 4.15 season. He did not contribute to the Giants’ first World Series title since 1954—and the franchise’s first in San Francisco.

Two years later, his perseverance paid off. His Game 1 gem propelled the Giants to a World Series sweep of the Tigers.

Zito chronicles his travails in the game in his recently released book “Curveball: How I Discovered True Fulfillment After Chasing Fortune and Fame.” Zito takes the reader through his career, from college standout to 1999 first-round pick to signing a seven-year contract with the Giants worth $126 million, then a record for a pitcher.

This is no fond reminiscing about his good times in baseball. Instead, Zito writes of the inner struggles attempting to meet his own expectations, and those of his father and fans. He delves into the psychological trauma of recognizing that his pitching results do not match the robust numbers on his paycheck.

“I came up through the Oakland A’s system and was just killing it, pitching great, won a Cy Young,” said Zito, who earned nicknames “Planet Zito” and “Captain Quirk” early in his career and was known as a free-thinker (he prefers “teachable spirit”) in the game.

“All of the sudden, I became self-aware and conscious of what I was doing. Then I was like, ‘Holy crap, how do I repeat this? How do I maintain success? How do I win another Cy Young?’ Then I kind of lost my mojo because I started thinking of how am I doing this instead of just trusting my talent.”

Retired from the game since 2015, Zito is now learning to better trust his talent as he pursues a second career in music.

Zito’s father Joe composed and arranged music for Nat King Cole in the early ’60s, and his mother Roberta sang in a choral group with Cole and his band. Zito began playing rhythm guitar in 2002 for his sister Sally in her country band.

“When you write music, the lyrics, you have to have something to say,” Zito said. “It’s important that that comes from a place of authenticity. So a lot of my negative experiences with baseball, failures and struggles, allowed me to have something to say later about it and learning the lessons the hard way.”

Zito released his first six-song EP titled “No Secrets” in 2017. He and his wife Amber and their two children now live in Nashville, where Zito is studying music production and audio engineering.

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