Dale Says

September 4, 2014

Barry Zito’s Last Out

Filed under: Colorful Characters, Profile — Dale @ 12:33 pm

It was a heart-warming, emotional moment late in the last game of a mostly-disappointing season. It was September 29, 2013 and the San Francisco Giants, who had won the World Series the previous year, were battling the San Diego Padres for third place. The Giants were behind 6-2 with two outs and no one on base in the eighth inning.

In an act of thoughtfulness, Manager Bruce Bochy brought in Barry Zito to get the final out of the inning against Zito’s friend and former Oakland A’s teammate, Mark Kotsay. This would be Barry Zito’s last game as a Giant, and it would be Mark Kotsay’s last game as a Padre.

Zito started his career with seven terrific years with the A’s, winning the 2002 American League Cy Young Award and making the All-Star team three times. He was the A’s most durable pitcher and he didn’t miss a scheduled start during his time in Oakland.

After seven years with the A’s, Zito signed a seven-year contract for $126 million with the San Francisco Giants. That put him under a magnifying glass when he arrived in San Francisco. He was applauded when he did well and criticized when he did poorly, often by the same people. Over the seven years with the Giants, Zito had a record of 63-80.

Throughout his time in San Francisco, Zito remained positive and enthusiastic and he always did his best to help win games for the Giants. No matter how good things got for Barry, he was always calm. No matter how bad things went for him, he never complained. He gladly filled any role the coaches wanted.

Barry’s teammates loved him, and so did the media, who could always get a good interview from him. The 2012 season was a highlight, when he finished 15-8 and won two big postseason games.

Off the field, Zito was known for his idiosyncrasies and offbeat personality. Early in his career, he dyed his hair blue, and received the nicknames “Planet Zito” and “Captain Quirk.” He played guitar, surfed, followed Zen, did yoga poses in the outfield, and meditated before games.

Zito is also a philanthropist. He founded the charity “Strikeouts for Troops,” which provides services to help injured US Troops and offers support to military families.

Mark Kotsay, who retired after 17 major league seasons, had been an All-American at Cal State Fullerton and played baseball for the U.S. Olympics team. He was picked by the Florida Marlins in the first round of the 1996 baseball draft, became a starter for the Marlins in 1998, and established a reputation for a strong arm in the outfield. He was traded several times during his career, and wound up playing for seven major league teams. Some of his best years were with the Oakland A’s, including 2004, when he hit .314 and led American League center fielders with 11 assists. Overall, Kotsay appeared in 1,914 games, and collected 1,784 hits.

Kotsay and Zito had been roommates in Oakland and they were friends. So it was appropriate that they should face each other in their final baseball game — friend versus friend.

Zito started Kotsay by slipping two breaking pitches past him for called strikes. Kotsay then fouled off a curveball. On the fourth pitch, Zito threw a fastball past a swinging Kotsay for strike three.

The AT&T Park crowd went crazy, which continued while Zito made his way to the dugout. His teammates refused to let him go down the dugout steps until he came out and tipped his cap to the crowd.

For his part, Kotsay didn’t mind the way his last at-bat turned out. Striking out against a friend was bearable.

“I’m happy for Barry.” he told a reporter after the game. “If I had to strike out in my final at-bat, I’m glad it was against a former teammate whom I respect and love. It’s a good way to go out.”

Zito was happy, too. He sent a text to Kotsay.

“I love you my brother,” he wrote. “I have so much respect for you. I love that it was us together out there. See you soon.”

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