Former Major League Baseball all-star Barry Zito was a baseball standout at an early age as he developed his signature curveball from the time he was 7, with his father intensely pushing him to pursue his dream of becoming a World Series champion.
It didn’t take long for Zito’s dream of playing in the MLB to become a reality once he was drafted out of the University of Southern California in 1999. The following year at the age of 22, he made his Major League debut with the Oakland Athletics and had little reason to look back.
In just his third big league season in 2002, Zito won the Cy Young Award as the best pitcher in the American League. And by the end of his seventh season, Zito had become one of the game’s better pitchers as a three-time all-star with hall-of-fame aspirations.
Although he gained the fame and fortune he dreamed of early into his career and even became part of a celebrity couple when he dated actress Alyssa Milano, Zito’s career took a drastic turn toward rock bottom after he signed a contract of historical proportions with the San Francisco Giants.
Despite the early successes in his career, the struggles he experienced as a member of the Giants altered Zito’s mental state to the point that it made him question the worldview he held since childhood. It was a worldview that enabled baseball to be turned into somewhat of an idol due to the fact that success in the game is what Zito used to measure his value as a human being.
“Being that there was no kind of steady rock outside of my own thoughts and my own willpower, life got pretty turbulent,” Zito recalled in an interview with The Christian Post. “I think the whole reason why I had such a hard time in baseball was because baseball was my god in a lot of ways.”
Last month, Zito released his memoir titled, Curveball: How I Discovered True Fulfillment After Chasing Fortune and Fame. The book goes into detail about how Zito came to faith in Christ during one of the lowest periods of his 15-season playing career.
Living up to the contract
Growing up in Southern California with a mom who pastored a religious sciences church, Zito told CP that his upbringing led him to believe that his success on the diamond during his first seven seasons was something that he created through positive thinking and willpower.
Zito said he rarely expressed gratitude during his reign of success in Oakland because he felt that he was just following the career path he and his father established for himself. According to Zito, he believed that he was a superstar who was worthy of the success and fortune he attained.
But such a worldview shook Zito’s mental state in the latter part of his career as the southpaw desperately tried to live up to the hype of what was at the time the largest contract for a pitcher in MLB history — a seven-year, $126 million deal signed with the San Francisco Giants in 2006.
But no matter how much Zito anguished mentally, he never attained the same level of individual success as a Giant that he did as a member of the Athletics. To this day, many Giants fans considered his giant contract to be nothing but a bust.
Zito said his ego took the biggest hit in 2010 when he was left off the Giants’ playoff roster despite his massive contract. He could only watch as a spectator as his teammates won the World Series that year without him.
“Sadly, a part of me was hoping they would lose because my ego was on death row,” Zito said of his emotions during the 2010 World Series. “My ego was kind of shattering and I thought my ego would be glorified if they could lose without me and I could say, ‘Well, maybe they needed Zito.’”
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Samuel Smith