It's about time we re-examine what we think we know about San Francisco Giants pitcher Barry Zito. Since coming into baseball, Zito's image was goofy – the SoCal kid who loved surfing, playing guitar and his good-luck teddy bears.
Zito, who will be 35 next month, isn't the same guy nowadays, just like you aren't the person you were in 2001. In a new Q & A with GQ magazine, Zito speaks openly about finding Christianity and becoming a firearms fan. Stereotypically, those two things don't jibe with the image people have of Zito as a "Zen" kind of guy. But this is Barry Zito we're talking about, a guy known for throwing curveballs.
You can read the entire GQ interview here, but we picked out some of the more interesting quotes:
I think I'm a little bit less of a seeker these days. I've found something that I just really love, which is the Christian faith, and it's new to me. I grew up being a seeker and being completely out of the box and testing and reading and trying all different religious things and kind of philosophical approaches and such, and it's kind of a backwards route. Most people are raised very rigidly in an organized religion and then they try to fight their way out of that. I needed structure [laughs]. A lot of these kind of spiritual things are all based on the self and that was just too – I couldn't handle that anymore. I don't know. I think it led to a form of – it can lead to narcissism, I think.
Zito turned to Christianity in 2011. It's worth noting that Zito, in a previous interview about his faith, talked about how he grew up studying a religion that his grandmother invented in the '60s. It was called Teachings of the Inner Christ.
Here's Zito on being a Christian and dealing with stereotypes:
I think that people hear things about religion and they fly off the handle and they get so [laughs] caught up in all these things but essentially it's a set of morals, you know? So I don't know how to answer that. I love music, I love surfing, I love yoga. It's either/or for people, and it sounds like you might feel that same way, possibly that you can either be Christian or you can be into yoga. You know what I mean? You can be Christian or you can be, like, an exciting person that's spontaneous. [laughs] I don't know. I get a little upset with the stereotypes out there, you know what I mean?
And finally, here he is talking about being a shooter. He alludes to his new hobby being a result of threats he's received after being labeled a "bust" of $126 million proportions:
I've kind of picked up a new hobby of shooting firearms. So that's something that I've really gotten excited about lately. I think when you have a family and you understand that you have so much to lose if some lunatic is gonna come off the street and try to do something in your home, it makes you feel a little better to know that I'll be able to defend my family. It's a utilitarian thing. That's basically what it's about.
While Zito has become a different person off the field, he's also become a new person on the field. Or maybe just the pitcher he used to be, back when he was with the Oakland Athletics and won a Cy Young. Zito pitched seven scoreless innings again on Sunday for the Giants. He's done that in three of four starts this season. Except for last Tuesday's start when he got pummeled by the Milwaukee Brewers for nine runs in 2 2/3 innings, Zito has been flawless this season. Factor out that one game, and the Giants have won 17 straight Zito starts dating back to last August.
If you liked the Zito Q & A (and above photo), go peruse more from GQ. The mag did a spring photo shoot with Zito, Buster Posey, Brandon Phillips, Chase Headley, Jake Peavy and Andre Ethier, plus there are Q & As with Phillips, Ethier and Peavy. The May issue of GQ is on newsstands Tuesday.