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It sure is nice that Barry Zito has modeling to fall back on

Big League Stew

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Major props are due to Barry Zito. After almost an entire season of being victimized by the unflattering cameras of the Associated Press, he's decided to take charge and float a few good-looking images to the public himself by becoming a fashion model.

OK, so it wasn't exactly Zito's idea to be featured wearing True Religion jeans on the sides of buses, buildings and on the company's website — a TR executive who spied Zito while flipping through a California tourism magzine is responsible for that.

Still, it seems that Zito is excited to present another side of himself to the world than the 7-year, $126 million bust he's been sadly showing while playing in San Francisco the past two seasons.

For those of you wondering how a 8-15, 5.31 pitcher could endorse anything, know that both Zito and True Religion swear this nameless campaign is not about his regular profession, but rather his looks (which include a hairstyle that probably requires more time each morning than a month's worth of bullpen sessions.)

But, hey, at least he'll have something to fall back on should he ever blow that $126 mil. (And given that most True Religion jeans cost north of $200, he'll also be able to afford them.)

From the San Jose Mercury News:

The Zito ads will appear on the sides of buses in Japan. In San Francisco, a True Religion billboard is planned for a building near the intersection of Bush Street and Van Ness Avenue.

"It's crazy,'' Zito said. "I got a text message from (former A's teammate) Eric Byrnes that said, 'Dude, my wife just saw you on a billboard in Vegas. You've got to be (kidding) me!' ''

Zito did not seek out this second career. He told his publicist, Kathy Jacobson, to refuse any endorsement offers - especially when he had an 0-8 record after nine starts.

"I can't be the `Seiko guy,' none of that,'' Zito said. "That just looks bad, like I'm not focusing on baseball. But Kathy said, `No, it's not an endorsement. It's not because of who you are or that you play baseball. This is a modeling gig.' ''

The thing I like best about this story is that with anyone else, there'd be a sizable outrage after noting that he went to Malibu for a fashion shoot on an offday during the season.

With Zito, though, it's likely that most Giants fans would've rather he stayed there.

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