Tuesday, October 2, 2001 Updated: October 3, 9:31 AM ET
Page 2 staff
Barry Zito is 23 years old and well on his way to two things: 1.) becoming one of the most feared pitchers in the majors, armed with a curve and a change-up that will buckle the best hitters; and 2.) becoming one of the most interesting cats to walk into a big-league clubhouse in a while.
Barry Zito has won eight consecutive starts for playoff-bound Oakland.
It started when the Oakland A's left-hander came to the majors toting a good-luck teddy bear and a pink pillow for road trips. It continues to this day as he barrels into the playoffs sporting a lifestyle heavy into Zen and an unkempt mane of hair that could hide several nests of rare birds. He's a lefty. He surfs, he listens to punk rock and he reads books that espouse a universal life force that he credits with his midseason turnaround. Meanwhile, a few lockers away, a teammate is reading "Barely Legal Centerfolds."
Page 2 caught up with Zito on the eve of the playoffs:
1. Page 2: Best hair in the bigs?
Zito: (long pause) By far, by a landslide, Matt Anderson. He's got the full perm, dude. He's my inspiration. I don't have the balls to perm it, dude. I'm just gonna kick it into my Elvis look right now. Here (puts on aviator shades, approximating early '70s Elvis look), I've got the Elvis look going, dude.
1a. Are you consulting a stylist on this look? Zito: No, not at all. I've just got to get back in form for when I go back to L.A. in the offseason. I just gotta start getting my style back. (Points to pair of elephant bell bottoms in his locker) I kinda got off track earlier in the year, but I'm starting to get my style look now. I love it.
1b. This is sort of a '73 Elvis, isn't it?
Zito: Yeah. The younger Elvis is probably the look I'd like to attain, though. The older Elvis, with like the jumpsuits and stuff? I'm not into the jumpsuits. Like, with the sequins and crap. But I do like the younger Elvis. I'm talking about the attire. I'd like older Elvis hair, the rest younger Elvis.
2. Do more big-league players need Zen in their lives? Zito: Regardless of what you want to call it, guys need some type of spirituality they can grab onto. If it's Christianity, which is a very structured approach, or if it's something that's a little more open-ended ... like, Zen's something you can make yourself a part of. You can interpret it for yourself, like Taoism and stuff like that. But yeah, I think every guy needs something he has to follow.
3. Why are lefties better than righties? Zito: I think we're just more of a commodity, you know? Everyone puts us on a pedestal, because you don't see 'em all the time. Obviously, that's the case in baseball, where 30 percent are left-handed, or whatever, compared to the normal population, where it's like 2 or 3 percent. I think we know that we're rare, and a commodity, and that kind of brings out the differences in us. It almost makes us dwell on our differences.
4. If you wind up hitting -- say, in the World Series -- what music should play? Zito: Punk rock, definitely. My favorite punk band is NOFX. They've got an album called "White Trash, Two Heebs and a Bean." It was gonna be called "White Trash, Two Kikes and a Spic," but that wouldn't pass the FCC or whatever. But any song from that album. All these guys in this clubhouse know is hip-hop. They don't know anything.
4a. Fantasy national anthem performer? Zito: By far, my favorite artist is Ben Folds. He recently went solo. He's a creative genius.
5. Which power would you wish for: The strength of 1,000 men, the ability to fly, or the ability to be invisible? Zito: Be invisible. Because I'm a pervert, dude. I'd be in every girls' bathroom, locker rooms. All of it.
6. Four people, living or dead, to your fantasy dinner? Zito: (long pause) Sandy Koufax. (long pause) FDR, probably. (pause) Ben Folds. And my date would be Penelope Cruz.
7. Best flake in ball history? Zito: I'd have to say Dock Ellis, dude. Pitching on LSD? That's pretty impressive. I could never function -- or at least pitch -- on LSD. I don't know how you could ever do that. Pitching's hard enough.
8. Hitter you least want to face? Zito: (long pause) I'd say Robby Alomar. Just a very tough out, man. Probably the toughest out in the league, in my opinion.
9. A book everybody in the bigs should read? Zito: It's a book on spirituality, a big reason for the turnaround in my year. It's called "Creative Mind and Success," by Ernest Holmes. It's pretty deep, man. Very deep. Be prepared, if you're gonna read it. Because a lot of beliefs people have about Christianity and other stuff ... it doesn't contradict them, but it says stuff more about universal things. The message is basically one concept, which is that there's a universal force out there, such as gravity or electricity, that is to our using. We can use it, we can access it.
10. Who in the bigs would make a great surfer? Zito: Actually, I know some guys who surf. Jaret Wright does. Trevor Hoffman, Ryan Klesko, Brent Mayne, too.
10a. Is there something to soul surfing, the art of communing with the ocean? Zito: Oh, it's unbelievable, dude. It's like no other feeling. I mean, I can't even compare it to ... the nearest feeling I've gotten from baseball was pitching in the playoffs in Yankee Stadium. Other than that, nothing comes close. And it's not even as good. Early morning, 5:30, sun's still coming up, it's dark out, but the sun's starting to peek out, and you paddle out, and sit on the outside, and it's all glassy, it's freezing cold, you're blowing out air, and you're the first guy out there ... you just see the waves come peeling off, dude. Oh, it's an unbelievable feeling.