In 2006, pitcher Barry Zito was on top of the world. After seven seasons with the Oakland Athletics, the Cy Young Award-winner and three-time All Star had just signed the most expensive contract for a pitcher in history with the San Francisco Giants. A true California native son (his hobbies include photography, yoga and guitar and drums), Zito was a fan-favorite in the Bay Area, and his hunky good looks made him equally enticing to advertisers.
But in 2007, everything changed. Zito struggled with the Giants, failing to produce a winning season in five years, and making some question the team's investment.
In 2012, Zito turned the tables, throwing one of the best games of his career in his season start against the Colorado Rockies. And he didn't stop there. When the postseason came around, Zito had had won 15 games--a winning season, and the third highest record on the team's staff.
"He's kind of been our lucky charm," said manager Bruce Bochy. Bochy rolled the dice again, starting Zito in game five against the St. Louis Cardinals and in game one of the World Series against the Detroit Tigers.
The gamble paid off: Zito pitched nearly eight scoreless innings against the Cardinals, pushing the Giants to a series lead. Five days later, he outpitched Tigers ace Justin Verlander, securing a Giants World Series game one win.
#RallyZito trended on Twitter, fans screamed his name at AT&T Park and Zito was reportedly surprised to hear his teammates chanting "Barry" in the clubhouse.
Now, Zito is back in the spotlight with a grown-up sensibility. When not pitching for the Giants, he rallies behind his charity, Strikeouts for Troops, plays guitar with Chris Isaak and Train, and spends time with his new wife, Amber. (Check out their unbelievable house in Marin, on the market now.)
"A lot of learning goes on in life," he told reporters at a press conference after his game one win. "The lows can be lows. I've made a lot of adjustments. Sometimes you just have to take your lashings; it's for a reason."
Zito took a break from the World Series to talk to The Huffington Post about his stellar postseason, his celebration plans and why he calls California home.
Describe what it was like pitching in the World Series. The postseason is all about calming your nerves and staying quiet inside. I was able to do that for the most part. The entire playoffs and World Series is a surreal, magical experience.
What did you think about #RallyZito trending on Twitter? I am not big on social media, personally, but really appreciated the response and support from all the fans. They really are the best fans around.
You pitched an unbelievable game against the Cardinals, and another one against the Tigers. Tell me what you did to prepare for those games. We prepare for our games based on process, not results. I prepared adequately for those games and they worked out.
Your performance this year has been viewed by some as the "Barry Zito comeback." What do you think of that narrative? I have worked hard and given my all each year. I do not choose to attach my mind a storyline of myself, but rather move forward with my work and aspirations.
Where are you going to celebrate your World Series win in San Francisco? A nice couple of days at home with my wife, Amber, is what I am looking forward to most. We have the parade on Wednesday and I hear there may be one million people.
If you had one final day in San Francisco, what would you do? I would go for a walk with Amber and our two dogs around some of the cool neighborhoods--the Mission, Potrero Hill and Dogpatch.
You've spent much of your life in California and over a decade in the Bay Area. What do you like about playing here? My heart and soul is in California. I grew up in San Diego, live in LA in the offseason, and live and work in SF during the season. In the Bay Area, I enjoy the people, the community, the great restaurants--I love all the shades of the Bay and this great state.
Take a look at photos from the big win below: