Barry Zito’s post-baseball career is going pretty well. The former pitcher for the Oakland Athletics and San Francisco Giants released an EP of country songs in January, and played a sold-out show the night before its release. And the Billboard charts have taken notice. Zito’s EP “No Secrets” has landed at No. 15 on the Americana/Folk Album chart, and No. 39 on the Country Album chart. According to Billboard, that makes him the first Cy Young winner to appear on any of their charts.
Zito wrote the single from the EP, “Home,” himself (during the 2011 baseball season, no less), and holds a co-writing credit on the other five songs. In an interview with Billboard.com, Zito delves into his history with music, which started with his family. His father was a conductor, his mother a backup singer (both worked with Nat King Cole), and his sister is a country artist. Given that background, sliding into the music world was only natural. It was his sister who convinced him to pick up the guitar when he was 21, and after his retirement from baseball in 2015, it was his (music) manager who gave him the chance to jump from songwriting to performing.
Though Zito says that pitching in front of large, loud crowds helped prepare him for his new career in music, there are important differences.
“When you’re performing for an audience, you’re really singing to give people an emotional experience,” he says. “But when you’re playing baseball, if there’s 50,000 people watching or two people, I really don’t care because I’m still in this competition and in battle with somebody. So, it’s not as much about the fans when you’re on the field competing. But when you’re performing, it’s all about the fans.”
It would be weird if in the middle of his set, Zito stopped and tried to have a guitar play-off with someone in the crowd while ignoring every other person there. Acting like a pitcher doesn’t really work during a live performance. Thankfully, he seems to have gotten the hang of it.
Zito may be the first Cy Young winner to appear on the Billboard charts, but he’s not the first baseball player. Former New York Yankees outfielder Bernie Williams has charted a few times in the jazz categories, and Cincinnati Reds pitcher Bronson Arroyo appeared on the Billboard charts when he released an album during his time with the Boston Red Sox in 2005.
But while Arroyo went back to baseball, this is Zito’s career now. He’s moved to Nashville, and is writing songs every day. There’s definitely more music to come from Barry Zito, and who knows? Maybe it’ll even be baseball related.
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