Barry Zito: When I Was a Kid
He's not only a good baseball player, but a very interesting guy too, this Barry Zito.
Barry had a successful youth career, playing in the 1994 Pony Colt World Series, the 1995 Palomino World Series, and the 1996 Connie Mack World Series. He was All-League as a senior at University High School (San Diego, CA), and earned Freshman All-American honors at UC Santa Barbara. He transferred to Pierce Junior College as a sophomore, garnering All-Conference and All-State status.
From Pierce, Barry was drafted by Oakland as a first round pick (9th overall) and left a string of pitching records there, including the 2002 American League Cy Young Award, before being traded to San Francisco in 2006.
Barry is also a guitarist and plays in his sister Sally's band, called "Sally Zito." Their dad was a composer/conductor for the legendary Nat King Cole and others stars, their mom sang with Cole's group. Barry has had dinner at the White House with President George W. Bush, and has appeared on numerous TV shows.
Barry sat down with Junior Baseball to recollect his baseball times 'When He Was a Kid'...
JB: How old were you when you started playing ball?
BZ: I was six years old. I was in La Mesa Fletcher Hills Little League, in the San Diego area.
JB: How did you do at that age?
BZ: I started throwing the curveball at seven (not recommended by this publication!), and I think I started to excel then. I was always a pretty good pitcher.
JB: Did you make the All-Star teams and play on any travel teams?
BZ: I was around 12 when I made my first All-Star team...but I was always the last one picked.
JB: You were "on the bubble"?
BZ: Yeah, I was always a bubble guy, and then in high school I was on the travel team, but not the great one, the 'B' Team. I still played with a couple guys that are now in the Big Leagues, but I was never on the elite travel team. That was the "Orange Crush", the top travel team, back in San Diego. And then the San Diego Stars. But I couldn't make those teams.
JB: What was your best memory of youth baseball?
BZ: There was a game in Little League, it was an All-Star game, and I was 12, and the starting pitcher came out. The coach never wanted to pitch me, but it was the division championship to go on to the regionals, and he had to put me in because the other guy was terrible. I threw like five innings, no runs, one hit, we won that game. We went on to the sectionals, but we lost to the team that had both Eric Chavez and Eric Munson.
JB: Between Little League and high school, what did you do in baseball?
BZ: I played Pony, which was 13 and 14. I thought it was great because the bases were 75 feet and the mound was 54, .a really good transition. I never understood how the kids go from 46 to 60 foot mound, or the bases from 60 feet to 90.
JB: You started to put up some really good numbers in high school. What changed there? Did you just get stronger? Did you learn some new pitches?
BZ: I had decent numbers in my senior year, but after my senior year I changed my mechanics with a scout friend of mine, Craig Weisman, who worked for the Mariners at the time. I picked up 10 miles per hour in six months, then I went to UC Santa Barbara and I was topping out at 93. Thatís when the whole world of professional baseball just opened up to me.
JB: After that you went back to Pierce Junior College, right?
BZ: That's right, I went to Pierce because I didn't want to wait three years to go pro. I figured, heck, if I'm throwing 93, I want to go to the Big Leagues. So I left Santa Barbara before my sophomore year, went to Pierce, pitched all year there, went in the third round, ended up not signing, ironically. Then I went to Cape Cod that next year, then to Grosemont Junior College in San Diego, then went back to SC for one semester and that's when I signed. It was kind of a crazy route.
JB: So you didn't have a Plan B in case you didn't make it in the pros?
BZ: Well, you get school when you get drafted, school gets paid for if you don't make it, but I really didn't have a Plan B.
JB: What goals do you have in the Big Leagues?
BZ: I'd like to just stay healthy primarily; secondarily, to pitch up to my potential every year and help the team win a championship.
JB: If you could tell the kids out there playing baseball who dream of being a Major Leaguer one thing, what would that be?
BZ: I'd tell them to not believe everyone when they tell you how hard it is to make it, because you start to limit yourself before you even try. It's just another level for us, although there aren't any more levels. It's no different from Little League or high school or college, just another level. If I kept telling myself it was impossible to make it when I was coming up, I'd have never made it myself.