A big struggle for athletes after retiring is answering the question, “What now?” How can you possibly take the adrenaline and competitive itch out of yourself, when you have been competing your entire life?
For former San Francisco Giant and Oakland Athletic’s pitcher Barry Zito, the answer is performing acoustic country music. He will get a chance to share his post-retirement passion with Chico on Wednesday at the Laxson Auditorium and will open for LeAnn Rimes on her “You and Me and Christmas” tour. Tickets are $15 for Chico State students with proof of ID.
“My manager has known her and her team for a long time and obviously Nashville is a really small world,” Zito said. “So last year we showed them kind of what I do and my songwriting stuff and my performances. (And) they invited me out for three dates last year in Florida and it was a good environment. I think they felt like it was a good fit so I’m coming out on six dates this year.”
Music runs in Barry’s blood – his dad was a composer for the legendary Nat King Cole and his mother was a backup singer for Cole. Zito picked up playing the guitar at the age of 21 while in the minor leagues with the A’s. Despite his family’s musical history, Zito was encouraged to play baseball by his parents.
“I was able to play guitar in hotel rooms and on the teams I was on; I would kinda help guys learn guitar and all that,” Zito said. “So it was a huge outlet for me once I became an adult, but really as a kid, it was all about baseball and frankly my father didn’t want me going into music. He knew how difficult it was to make a living.”
Zito’s mother often joked about Barry’s birthmark on his left-hand, saying it was a sign he was meant to play baseball. His father even moved his family to San Diego and hired a former San Diego Padres left-hander for $50 a week to help Barry hone his craft.
Given all his parent’s sacrifices for him, he wishes they were around to see him pursuing music. Despite the awards and success in baseball Zito had, he feels being a musician is who he has always been at his core.
“I had always looked forward to the day when I could go all in, 100 percent, with music because music just kind of makes sense to my brain,” Zito said. “I’m kind of a math-oriented guy so music theory and kind of how all the building blocks for music fit together really just makes a lot of sense to me.”
His wife Amber Seyer is the one who introduced Zito to country music and that has had an influence on his musical style. Zito has gone on co-write the song “Butterflies” that was used in the Eddie Murphy film “A Thousand Words” and released an EP titled “No Secrets” in 2017.
Music has gone on to help Zito through the toughest times of his career, helping him find peace and a new perspective in life.
“I think society tells us success at all costs. But where is the quality of life in that?” Zito said. “Because when you get on the other side of a huge award or accolade and you realize, ‘I’m really not that much happier than I was.’ After the initial burst of like, ‘holy c**p that’s amazing.’ ”
“So with music, I’m setting goals and working hard but I’m not attached to them.”
Ricardo Tovar can be reached at [email protected] or @rtovarg13 on Twitter.