Is that former MLB star Barry Zito on 'The Masked Singer?'

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At a time when sports fans are itching for competition and someone to root for, the remedy might just be Barry Zito singing country songs in a rhinoceros costume.

Maybe. It’s a 50/50 chance.

If you’re a sports fan, particularly a baseball fan, you might want to tune into FOX’s “The Masked Singer” because quite a few people believe the singer wearing a rhino costume is Zito, the former Cy Young winner and World Series champ turned country singer.

Is Possible Barry Zito sports? No. But in our current no-sports society, is it close enough? Depends how desperate you are.

“The Masked Singer” has already cast the likes of Antonio Brown, Terry Bradshaw and Rob Gronkowski. None of them were particularly great. It was good stunt casting, but Possible Barry Zito is good enough that there’s some legit mystery whether it’s an actual country singer or the curveball slinger.

The Rhino is set to perform again on the show Wednesday night, with nearly 8 million people watching, and a chance he could be unmasked. So before all the fun is taken away, let’s revel in this quasi-sports mystery.

The Rhino is a ‘Masked Singer’ mystery

First, quickly, an intro for anybody who doesn’t know: “The Masked Singer” is a fun little take-off on other singing competition shows where the contestants wear big ol’ costumes — think Deontay Wilder, but sometimes wilder — and a panel of celebrity judges that includes Jenny McCarthy, Ken Jeong and Nicole Scherzinger tries to guess who’s underneath the mask.

Before and after each contestant sings, the audience and judges get cryptic clues about who’s inside each costume. It usually leads to incorrect guesses from the judges and a litany of theories from people on social media. Legit pop culture pundits usually have most of “The Masked Singer” identities figured out before the singers are voted off and reveal themselves, but the Rhino seems to be one of this season’s most tough-to-guess characters.

Yahoo Music’s Lyndsey Parker is the resident “Masked Singer” expert around here, and she was on the Barry Zito train early on, but now she’s not so sure. She has most of the others figured out — which you can read about here, if you’re not afraid of spoilers — but the Rhino?

“This horned creature has proven to be one of this season’s most enigmatic characters,” Parker relayed to us over here in sports land. “Some clues indicate that this lanky ‘risk-taker,’ who was once ‘on top’ but then ‘crashed and burned,’ is a bad-boy country singer like Trace Adkins. Other clues point toward him being an athlete, which makes football player-turned-country star Sam Hunt a solid guess. But 6-foot-2 Barry can sing and has a side career in country music – in fact, in 2017, he released the EP No Secrets, which went to No. 18 on the Billlboard Heatseekers chart. And a couple weeks ago, there was a surfing clue, which further tips me toward Barry. So, perhaps Zito does have a secret: that he is the Rhino!”

For comparison’s sake, here’s a video of the Rhino from “Masked Singer” followed by one of Zito’s songs

Why people believe The Rhino is Barry Zito

The clues on “Masked Singer” aren’t supposed to be easy. There’s no fun in that. Instead, viewers are supposed to be looking for hidden messages and references. For example: Before Rob Gronkowski was unmasked a few weeks ago, one of his clips showed up him in front of a sign that said, “Four score and seven years ago,” which translates to 87, which was Gronk’s number on the Patriots.

As for the Rhino, some of the clues that point to Zito include:

• Wanting to pursue music when he was young, which we know Zito did.

• The Rhino talks at one point about being at the top of his profession — Zito’s $126 million contract was once the biggest ever for a pitcher — but then crashing and burning, which Zito did with the Giants.

• The Rhino describes being on the show as “just a bit outside my comfort zone,” which has is also a sly baseball reference for anyone who has seen “Major League.”

• He talks about surfing at one point, which he know Zito is/was very much into.

Here’s one of “Masked Singer” clue packages so you can see:

Grant Brisbee, one of the internet’s most esteemed San Francisco Giants writers, is sure this is Zito. He wrote recently at The Athletic, plainly: “This is Barry Zito” and then unraveled more clues that point to Zito:

“In a previous clue package, the rhino was cutting a small hamburger (or “slider”) while wearing a huge diamond ring. There’s been a clue with a guitar that had “Grand Ole Opry” inscribed on the fretboard, a reference to Zito’s time in Nashville with the A’s Triple-A affiliate. The rhinoceros was also quoted as saying, “Family is very important for success, especially when performing for a king is in your blood,” which is a reference to his parents working with Nat King Cole.”

There are plenty more Bay Area sports fan who think the same:

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As for the judges? Well last time the Rhino performed, their guesses were: county singer Vince Gill, ex-Guns N Roses bassist Duff McKagan and, of all people, Derek Jeter. While it seems entirely possible the Rhino is Barry Zito, there seems to be a very small chance it’s Jeter.

The last time “Masked Singer” showed The Rhino was two weeks ago, and there was a clue that seemed to indicate he wasn’t an athlete — though, that could be a misdirection — and a proclamation that Rhino is the “risk-taking, gambling type. He also said fans “may even have an album by him,” that’s points a little less toward Zito. He does have an album, but how many people have it? The Rhino is also standing in front of a slot machine and Zito is from Las Vegas.

The verdict? We don’t know one way or another, which is exactly the point. We’ll have to wait to see how this one plays out.

And, if we’re being honest, that’s the same reason we watch sports.

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