We all know oodles of stories about Barry Zito. Fat-pocketed pitcher, accomplished guitarist (!), dated Alyssa Milano and Hillary Duff, 120+ million-dollar contract, satin pillows and stuffed animals on the road, and other various idiosyncracies. Retelling the tale that is to follow isn't nearly as much fun if you have to explain who the guy is to the layperson (even worse if the guy end's up being another Kevin Appier).
But I mean, how do you not know who BARRY ZITO is, Mr. Immigrant Guy at the deli? Cy Young winner, gets paid $5000 per pitch, etc. Further, with the countless stories over the past year of his signing by the Giants being among the worst ever, a little part of me dies inside.
Then again, the same guy would be scratching his head if I lived in the boyhood home of Mickey Mantle.
I live in Barry Zito's old house. OK, there. I said it.
Flash back to December of 2004. I was returning from my then 6 year-old son's baseball practice. With the bed of my truck loaded with baseball gear, we pulled into our driveway when a man walking up the street started toward our house. He was the man who sold the home previously, twice actually. I gave him a few words about how tired we were in an effort to shoo him away, trying to avoid whatever sales pitch he was obviously crafting.
He noticed our baseball gear and quipped, "Do ya watch much baseball on TV?"
"Yeah, probably too much." I replied.
"You know, there's a guy who pitches for the Oakland A's...Barry Zito...he used to live here years ago."
The man I was speaking with was the property manager back then and the house used to be a rental. Joe Zito lived there with his son and daughter while they attended Grossmont High School. I learned from the guy that Barry was a pretty wild teenager back in his high school days, constantly having friends over and partying into the wee hours when his dad was out of town. Apparently the La Mesa Police made many a visit to young Barry's house.
Oakland at Seattle, 2006
My buddy Pete in Seattle called me and told me he spoke to Barry Zito during Mariners batting practice and mentioned that I live in his old house. Although Pete wasn't able to recall my address, he told Barry that it was in La Mesa. Barry acknowledged and let him know that he stills drives by on occassion when he is in the area, and the last time he did so, he stopped to take pictures. When Pete told me this, I was floored.
The news came across the wire in the offseason in 2006. Barry Zito had been signed to the richest contract ever provided to a pitcher, and he was going to pitch for my beloved San Francisco Giants. This was just too perfect, an obsessive-compulsive Giants fan like myself, living in the boyhood home of my team's ace pitcher. Are you kidding me? I made it my personal mission to meet Barry at some point and let him know that his former home was being tended to by one of his supporters. I tried a couple of times during 2007 when the Giants were in playing the Padres, but to no avail. He never seemed to get within earshot, and I didn't want to count myself among many of the other jackasses barking at him. Not my style.
August 1, 2008
An errant throw by Jack Taschner during pre-game long toss sends Barry my way, front row on the third base side of the infield at Petco Park. Without so much as a millisecond of hesitation, I blurted out, "Barry, I live in your old house!"
"Really. The one on Xxxxxx Drive?" (street name hidden to protect the current occupant)
"Yup." I replied, verifying the house's address.
"Since October of 2004. Had no idea until the local realtor told me, and then we started junk mail with your dad's name on it."
We spoke for a few minutes as batting practice was winding down. He let me know that the smallest of the three bedrooms was his, and that he used to have a mound in the backyard, exactly 60 feet from where they had slapped down a home plate. I told him that my oldest son currently inhabits that same bedroom, and that he practices his left-handed pitching on that same stretch of soil. He let me know that it was incredible that a left-handed young Giants fan now pitches there, and said "maybe we'll see him up at this level someday!"
In closing, I let him know that he is welcome to stop by anytime if he wants to walk the halls once again, figuring he might need to revisit his past to better propser his future (or some Zen-like crap like that). He ate it up, and said he will likely take me up on that.
August 2, 2008
Pitcher IP H R ER BB SO HR
Zito (W, 6-13) 8.0 3 0 0 4 5 0
Barry turns in his best outing as a Giant. Coincidence, or divine appointment?