by Faye Rapoport
Barry Zito, 26, is much more than one of the hottest pitchers in baseball and the 2002 Cy Young Award winner. He’s a budding musician who writes songs, a huge fan of Ben Folds and an actor who has appeared on JAG, the Chris Isaak Show and ARLISS. He has even performed with the Oakland Ballet.
Zito’s divergence from the life of a typical ball player doesn’t end there. He credits some of his best pitching streaks to metaphysical beliefs and the study of such works as Ernest Holmes’ 1919 book, Creative Mind. He once told ESPN, “I try to be at the center of my own world and, as hard as it is, not to be affected by all the stuff flying around and all the thought-forms and negativity. Just let that bead off of you. I just encourage everyone to live like that and not give power to other people’s beliefs and opinions and all the stuff that brings us down. Live your life by inner realization.”
You can’t even pin him down to being a southpaw, although Zito pitches his famous “wicked curveball” left-handed, he writes and plays guitar with his right.
Despite his many talents, Zito says he knew he would be a major league pitcher from the moment he picked up a baseball at age six. He practiced daily on a home-made pitching mound built by his father, Joe Zito, former composer and arranger for Nat King Cole.
Zito’s high school and college baseball stats were nothing short of remarkable. Zito graduated from University High School in San Diego in 1996 after earning all-league honors in baseball as a senior. He attended UC Santa Barbara as a freshman, earning Freshman All-American Honors from Collegiate Baseball after striking out 123 in 85.1 innings. As a sophomore at Pierce Junior College he was all-state and all-conference after going 9-2 with a 2.62 ERA and 135 strikeouts in 103 innings. He jumped to USC as a junior, where he was a first-team All-America selection by USA Today Baseball Weekly, Collegiate Baseball and Baseball America after going 12-3 with a 3.28 ERA and 154 strikeouts in 113.2 innings. He was named Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year and and played in the the 1994 Colt World Series, the 1995 Palomino World Series and the 1996 Connie Mack World Series.
The 6′ 4″ Zito was drafted by the Oakland A’s as a first-round draft pick in 1999 and completed his 2001 season with a 17-8 record and a 3.49 ERA. He closed the 2002 season with a 23-5 record, a 2.75 ERA, and the Cy Young Award, pitching’s top honor. This year he has a 5-7 season going with a 4.61 ERA. But no one counts Zito out in his potential to turn anything around to a stunning success.
How many major league pitchers would take the time to talk to us about foot care? Not surprisingly, Zito diverged from the usual interviews to answer a few questions for Foot.com.
Foot.com: How did you get started in baseball?
Zito: I started playing baseball when I was six. I always knew I wanted to be a pitcher. As a little kid, when asked what position to do you want to play, I’d always say I want to pitch.
Foot.com: What are some of the career highlights you are most proud of, or have enjoyed most so far?
Zito: There have been so many highlights, but helping my team get to the playoffs was great…though we didn’t win the world series…that is my goal! Being selected to play in two all star games has been great, and winning the Cy Young Award in 2002 was certainly an honor.
Foot.com: What kind of training do you have to do as a pitcher, especially involving your feet and lower legs?
Zito: I do a lot of stretching, yoga, I ride the bike a lot….even before I pitch to get warmed up.
Foot.com:What kind of socks and footwear do you use while pitching, and why? Do you use any orthotics or other footcare products with your shoes?
Zito: I wear a Puma shoe that is designed especially for me…it’s light and airy. My socks are just the regular socks that are part of a baseball uniform….nothing special.
Foot.com: Have you ever had any foot injuries or conditions that have affected your game?
Zito: I’ve been really lucky. I haven’t except for an occasional blister.
Foot.com: What are your future goals?
Zito: I want to stay healthy, do my best and help my team win the World Series…that is the ultimate!
Foot.com:Do you have any tips/words of advice for your fans regarding footcare or baseball training in general?
Zito: My only thought is to take care of your feet because when they hurt…everything hurts. About baseball training….take care of your body, eat healthy, have fun out there…I think that’s the key.